LONDON - The torture in custody of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and activist who rose to fame during the 2011 uprising, as well as the mistreatment of his lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer, are chilling illustrations of the ruthless tactics the Egyptian authorities are prepared to use to silence critics, said Amnesty International today.
Following his arrest on 29 September during the authorities’ latest crackdown, Alaa Abdel Fattah was transferred to Egypt’s notorious Tora maximum security prison 2, known as al-Aqrab 2 - where prison officers blindfolded him, stripped him of his clothing, beat and kicked him repeatedly, and subjected him to threats and verbal abuse.
One police officer told him prison was “made for people like you”, adding that he would be in prison for the rest of his life. A National Security Agency officer warned he would face further torture if he reported the abuse.
“Alaa Abdel Fattah’s torture in custody illustrates the Egyptian authorities’ use of extreme brutality to crush dissent and shows the extreme lengths that they are prepared to go to in order to intimidate perceived government critics,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
Alaa Abdel Fattah’s lawyer, Mohammed el-Baqer, a well-known human rights defender and director of Adala Center for Rights and Freedoms, was also arrested on 29 September and has been subjected to ill-treatment at the same prison.
He is being detained in a cell with poor ventilation and was blindfolded, stripped of his clothes and verbally insulted by prison guards who also prevented him from showering for nine days and from buying clean water or food from the prison canteen.
“The abuse that the Egyptian authorities are subjecting Mohamed el-Baqer to just because he bravely defends the rights of victims of human rights violations is another illustration of Egypt’s utter disregard for human rights,” said Najia Bounaim.
“The Egyptian authorities must immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into these shocking torture allegations and urgently ensure Alaa Abdel Fattah’s and Mohamed el-Baqer’s protection.
“Both men appear to have been targeted solely based on their legitimate work defending human rights, they should not even be behind bars let alone facing torture and other ill-treatment. They should both be released immediately and the charges against him dropped. And all those responsible for this cruel injustice must be held accountable.”
The Egyptian authorities campaign of mass arrests coupled with fresh evidence of torture and other ill-treatment against peaceful activists and human rights defenders places a spotlight on Egypt’s human rights record ahead of its review at the UN Human Rights Council in November.
“The international community, and in particular Egypt’s allies, must stand up to these dangerous developments and call on president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to bring the country’s worsening human rights crisis to an end,” said Najia Bounaim.
The Egyptian authorities have launched the biggest crackdown under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule rounding up more than 2,800 people, including protestors, politicians, journalists and human rights lawyers.
On 9 October, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer reported their torture and other ill-treatment when they appeared before prosecutors for questioning.
Both are detained in the notorious Tora Maximum security prison 2 or Aqrab 2, where dire detention conditions have pushed tens of detainees to go on hunger strikes.
Alaa Abdel Fattah has been repeatedly arrested in recent years including for his role in demonstrations during 2011 uprising. He served an unjust five-year prison sentence for participating in a peaceful protest in 2013.
He was released from prison in March 2019 under arbitrary probation conditions requiring him to spend 12 hours every night at a police station for five years. Despite the fact he did not participate in the latest outbreak of protests because he was detained in the police station at the time, he was arrested and detained on charges of spreading false news and joining an illegal organization.