The Al-Aqrab prison is facing further scrutiny despite its recent acquiescence to the demands of activists and associations calling for an improvement in the conditions of treatment for detainees.
Families of those held within the prison have only been allowed to visit their relatives and enter medications and blankets into the controversial prison since Thursday. However, complaints from the families continue as they say the changes are not substantial, but are rather a palliative measure ahead of a scheduled visit by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).
Built in 1993 under the reign of notorious minister of interior Habib Al-Adly, Al-Aqrab Prison hosted many political prisoners and high-profile inmates accused of being involved in terrorist activities. It continued to be used to host defendants accused of violence and terrorism. The majority of the detainees are accused of joining terrorist militant groups. Activists call the prison “Egypt’s Guantanamo”, due to the harsh treatment inmates allegedly receive.
The infamous prison saw the deaths of three Islamist leaders in custody in the second half of 2015. Among the latest of these was Essam Derbala, the leader of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya and head of the Building and Development Party.
The initiative to allow visits and medications was taken up after an extensive online campaign by rights and political activist who shed light on “violations” inside Al-Aqrab Prison.
According to the Association of Relatives of the Al-Aqrab Prison Detainees, despite this improvement, visits are limited to several minutes, and visitors are subject to long waiting times.
Although the association cited “better conditions for detainees”, they asserted they are procedures to contain public anger, especially before an expected visit by the quasi governmental NCHR.
The ministry of interior was not available for comment on the claim presented by the families of the detainees. The association demands the return of the full-hour visit.