Azbakeya Prosecution renewed on Sunday the detention of four political activists arrested on 25 January during the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution for 15 more days.
Held in preventative detention for almost a month, the activists are part of a group of 79 detainees who were held at Abou Zaabal Prison, all of whom reported facing torture, according to their lawyer Mahmoud Belal.
Belal said most of the detainees’ lawyers were unable to attend Saturday’s renewal session. He stated that the lawyers had initially asked the prosecution whether there would be a session on Saturday, but were told no sessions were scheduled for that day.
“By the time we found out the session was happening, it was too late to get there,” Belal said.
The 79 detainees are accused of joining a banned organisation (in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood), attacking security officials and protesting without notice.
The four detainees were physically assaulted outside the prosecution on Saturday, Belal said. Nation without Torture Campaign reported that security forces refused to remove the detainees’ handcuffs, in violation of the prosecutor’s orders. When the detainees protested, asking to be sent back to the prosecutor, security forces allegedly attacked them.
Security forces also fired shots in the air to “terrorise” the detainees’ families and lawyers, according to Freedom for the Brave, a recently launched campaign calling for the immediate release of detainees arrested from political protests. In a statement released on Sunday, the campaign claimed that the officer responsible for transferring the detainees threatened to shoot the lawyers when they protested the detainees’ beating.
The lawyers reported the incident to the prosecution, only to find a report filed by the officer responsible for the detainees’ transfer accusing the detainees of physically assaulting him, the campaign said.
Freedom for the Brave condemned the attacks the detainees were subjected to, holding the Ministry of Interior responsible for the health of all detainees and prisoners.
The campaign warned of the deteriorating health conditions of Mohamed Al-Sayes, one of the four detainees. Al-Sayes is reportedly suffering from a spinal disc herniation. The campaign said that the physical assault he was subjected to on Saturday worsened his condition. It added that while Al-Sayes’ lawyers called for transporting him from his area of detention to the prosecution and back in an ambulance, the police and the prosecution both disregarded the calls.
Freedom for the Brave urged the prosecution to “carry out its duty” in securing detainees and prisoners and in holding accountable security officials responsible for violations against detainees.
During a previous detention renewal session, one of the four detainees, Khaled Al-Sayed, complained of facing torture at the hands of security officials. Al-Sayed said in a written testimony detailing the account of his arrest and detention that he was blindfolded and forced to attend the torture of other detainees. He claimed security officials told him such detainees were being tortured “because of you, revolutionaries”.
After complaining to the prosecution of being subjected to torture during a detention renewal session on 9 February, Al-Sayed and three other political activists were moved from Abou Zaabal Prison to Tora Prison.
Belal had earlier said the prosecution was mostly uncooperative in reporting the detainees’ torture complaints during the 9 February session.
Freedom for the Brave Campaign condemned in a statement released last Monday the delay in referring the allegedly tortured detainees to the forensics authority to investigate the validity of their claims. The campaign warned that the later the detainees are referred to the forensics authority, the more difficult it would be to prove their torture claims, “as the signs of torture gradually wane with time”.
Over 1,000 protesters were arrested during demonstrations marking the third anniversary of the revolution. Their detention conditions have been condemned by several human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, the Nation without Torture Campaign and the Freedom for the Brave Campaign. A group of 16 domestic human rights organisations accused the police forces of torturing and sexually assaulting detainees.
The Ministry of Interior, however, denied torture allegations reported by those who had been preventively detained. In a statement released two weeks ago, 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”.