The prosecutor’s office ordered the detention of three officers and a vice warden of the Heliopolis police station for four days for their role in the death of 49 prisoners on 17 August.
Anti-torture movement Nation-Without-Torture disputed early Ministry of Interior figures of 36 dead, alleging that 52 prisoners had been killed, and that “bodies of the dead were burnt to conceal torture marks.”
The anti-torture movement stated that 600 detainees were on their way to Abo Zaabal prison after the Prosecutor General’s office had ordered their detention for 15 days pending investigations related to their participation in protests following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
The Ministry of Interior and MENA news agency initially reported that “unknown gunmen” had tried to aid the prisoners in escaping and also attempted the kidnapping of a police officer.
The ministry’s statement, which had been modified four times with varying accounts of events, claimed that “[the prisoners] were killed as a result of a tear gas canister shot at them to prevent their escape.”
The movement cited political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah’s statement on his personal Facebook page regarding the incident, where he claimed that “the prisoners were deported in an overly crowded stacked police truck during noon,” adding that the truck did not have an adequate source of ventilation, causing the “prisoners to panic due to suffocation.”
“The prisoners were shouting and attempted to pull a police officer inside the vehicle, eventually leading to the shooting of a tear gas canister within the packed vehicle, causing the death of the 52 prisoners,” said Abdel Fattah.
According to state-owned Al-Ahram the number of dead was 49, while the interior minister reported the deaths at 36.
The ministry went on to issue a complaint against the detention of the officers, which was refused by the prosecutor general.
Ibrahim Al-Deeb, brother of deceased prisoner Mohamed Al-Deeb, said that families of the victims are currently issuing authorisations to allow various activist organisations to represent them in court.
“My brother was a director and was documenting the Rabaa [Al-Adaweya] sit-in,” said Al-Deeb. “He was arrested on 14 August and was set to head to Abo Zaabal prison as part of a preventive detention sentence. He had nothing to do with what was happening… now he is dead and my father is detained.”
Al-Nadeem Center lawyer Basma Zahran said that “initially the accused officers’ statements were taken to file a report for the incident, now the Prosecutor General has charged them with different charges. However, we do not know what they are yet… the prosecutor also ordered their investigative detention for four days.”
The prosecutor general’s office was not available for comment.