The “savageness” of torture practices reported by detainees arrested during the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution surpass the practices of security apparatuses during the “worst dictatorial regimes” Egypt had witnessed, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
ANHRI condemned the alleged torture the “political” detainees are facing in a statement it released on Tuesday. The organisation said such practices destroyed the legal principle which considers suspects “innocent until proven guilty”.
Among the 1,079 the Ministry of Interior reported to have arrested on 25 January, at least 79 are being held at Abu Zaabal Prison. All have reported being subjected to torture, according to their lawyer Mahmoud Belal.
ANHRI reminded that the newly passed constitution, which “the state has advocated and encouraged the people to approve”, considers torture a crime punishable by the law, as per Article 52. It condemned the state’s continued practice of “dealing with the constitution as merely ink on paper,” adding that the text necessitates the protection of detainees and their legal rights.
The organisation called on the prosecutor general to “immediately and transparently” investigate the detainees’ accounts regarding the “systematic torture” they claim to face in detention facilities at the hands of security officials.
Among the detainees who were ill-treated since their arrest is Karim Al-Behairy, a journalist working for independent newspaper Al-Badil. Al-Behairy was arrested while covering protests commemorating the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. His detention was renewed twice for 15 days, with the second time taking place last Thursday, ANHRI said. He is currently detained at a Central Security Camp on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road.
Al-Behairy was subjected to “assault and physical violence”, he told an ANHRI lawyer. He reportedly accused security forces of beating him upon his arrest, taking away all his personal belongings and preventing him from contacting his lawyers.
The journalist added that he was physically assaulted again when he refused to be photographed with Molotov cocktails; the picture would imply Al-Behairy was arrested while in possession of the ammunition.
Al-Behairy also claimed to have been stripped, alongside the 46 other detainees arrested with him, and taken into an “illegal” prison cell inside the Central Security Camp. On the same day, the journalist was summoned with four others to a State Security officer; they were blind-folded and questioned regarding political movements and activists, ANHRI said.
Alongside 37 others arrested during the same incident, Al-Behairy faces charges of inciting violence, blocking roads and being in possession of Molotov cocktails, his lawyer Karim Abdel Radi said.
On 25 January, at least five photojournalists were arrested, and two more were hospitalised with injuries; journalists were the target of a series of attacks, arrests, and assaults on that day.
Another torture account, reported by ANHRI, is that of Belal Khalil, a nursing student who was randomly arrested from downtown Cairo on 25 January. Khalil, who suffers from a disability in his right arm and a broken finger on his left hand, claims having to face “continuous violence and physical assault”.
The nursing student claims to have been stripped, completely shaven and sprayed with cold water while facing physical attacks. Khalil also told ANHRI that security forces seized his money, personal belongings and the blankets he used inside his cell.
Khalil was moved to Abu Zaabal Prison along with over 100 other detainees arrested during the same incident. Most torture reports that have recently surfaced emerged from Abu Zaabal prison, a detention facility described by lawyer Belal as “inhumane” and “notorious for torture”.
Detainees held at Abu Zaabal Prison include members of political parties such as; Al-Dostour Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Social Popular Alliance Party, said Al-Dostour Party spokesman Khaled Dawoud. They also include two prominent leftist youth activists, Khaled Al-Sayed and Nagi Kamel. Dawoud, who attended their investigation on Sunday, described the detention situation as “miserable”.
Detention conditions for those arrested in the backdrop of the revolution’s anniversary have been condemned by several human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, the Nation without Torture Campaign and the Freedom for the Brave Campaign.
The Ministry of Interior, however, denied torture allegations reported by those who had been preventively detained. In a statement released on Tuesday, the ministry expressed its readiness to receive complaints from inmates, adding it will look into such complaints and take “decisive measures” against all those who are found complicit in committing “violations or delinquencies”.