Re: Egypt – deaths in detention and mass hunger strike in Cairo’s “Scorpion” prison
I am writing to you in my capacity of spokesman of a newly formed opposition coalition called the Egyptian National Action Group to draw your attention to the recent deaths of several political prisoners in Egyptian prisons as well as the mass hunger strike currently happening in the “Scorpion prison” i.e. the maximum security wing of the Tora prison complex in Cairo. I am asking you for your urgent intervention in this matter to alleviate the immense suffering of the detainees and to prevent other tragic deaths.
The “Scorpion” ward is where political prisoners have been detained in appealing conditions for years. More than 300 detainees have been on a mass hunger strike following the death of the 47 year old inmate journalist Mahmoud Abdel Majid Saleh on January 4th, 2020. Mahmoud Saleh was denied access to medical care despite his deteriorating health condition and the calls for help from other prisoners. Until his death, he also suffered from cold and hunger.
Moustafa Kassem’ and Mahmoud Saleh’s deaths add to the sinister list of Egyptian political prisoners who died in detention, including President Mohamed Morsi who died last June. On December 21st, 32 year old Mariam Salem died of hepatic fibrosis as she was denied access to adequate health care. She was a mother of four, the last one was born in prison. In Al-Qanater prison, ten female political prisoners including Esraa Abdel Fattah, Radwa Mohamed and Aisha al-Shater have been on hunger strike to protest against ill-treatment and medical negligence.
The +300 political prisoners on hunger strike are calling for:
– An investigation into Mahmoud Saleh’s death
– Blankets to be supplied during winter
– The effective authorization to get out of their cells on a daily basis
– The right to have family visits.
Those demands are very minimalist in comparison to what their actual basic rights are according to the Egyptian Constitution and to the international convents Egypt is signatory of. Since 2013, many reports from NGOs and human rights specialists have denounced the brutal and inhuman conditions in which the prisoners are detained in “Scorpion” prison with dirty, dark and non-ventilated overcrowded cells – although some are maintained in solitary confinement for years, deliberate lack of access to adequate medical treatment, starvation and extreme heat in summer time and cold in winter. They are denied family visits as well as daily walks out of their cells. All of them are at risk of facing Moustafa Kassem or Mahmoud Saleh’s fates.
The prison authorities have so far completely ignored the hunger strike and even publicly denied there was any. But several striking prisoners have been sent in solitary confinement cells in retaliation. According to our information, dozens have lost consciousness on and off and some have fallen into a coma, receiving no medical assistance from the prison administration.
The Egyptian National Action Group that I represent as its spokesman has expressed its full support to the +300 detainees on hunger strike. We also denounce the slow death policy followed by the Egyptian authorities against the prisoners and to call for urgent actions from Egypt’s main political and economic supporters in the EU and in the USA. With 60,000 political prisoners, Egypt is one of the most repressive regime in the world. The Egyptian National Action Group believes that France/the UK/the UN… has the power to save the lives of hundreds by imposing greater pressure on the Egyptian regime.
I remain at your disposal to answer any questions you may have in regards to the situation in the “Scorpion prison”.
Dr. Ayman Nour
Spokesman of the Egyptian National Action Group
Chairman of the Ghad El-Thawra Party
2005 Presidential elections’ candidate