A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood has been moved to a disciplinary cell in Egypt’s notorious Al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison after writing an article for the New York Times. Gehad El-Haddad was arrested in Cairo in September, 2013, two months after the military coup against the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected civilian president.
Since Morsi’s overthrow, the Egyptian authorities have launched an unprecedented crackdown on the Islamic movement, listing it as a terrorist organisation and detaining hundreds of its leaders and members.
Haddad is now serving two life sentences in Al-Aqrab Prison on charges including espionage. The prison has been criticised by local and international human rights organisations for its inhumane conditions.
Last week, Haddad wrote an article for the New York Times: I Am a Member of the Brotherhood, Not a Terrorist.
“I write this from the darkness of solitary confinement in Egypt’s most notorious prison, where I have been held for more than three years,” wrote Haddad. “I am forced to write these words because an inquiry is underway in the United States regarding charges that the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation to which I have devoted years of my life, is a terrorist group.” The article was published on Wednesday, 22 February. Since then, the Brotherhood official has been placed in a disciplinary cell in the same prison.
According to his mother, Mona Imam, the cell has no water or electricity; no window or other light source; and no toilet. “The walls of the cell are painted black,” she wrote on Facebook, “which means that its inmate lives in continuous darkness.”
Without a toilet, the cell has “two buckets”, one for urinating in and the other for defecating. As there is insufficient space to lie down, the prisoner must try to sleep while sitting.
Imam expressed concern about her son’s health, saying that he suffers from general weakness and severe anaemia. She holds the Egyptian Prisons Authority and the interior ministry responsible for Haddad’s deteriorating health condition. “Everything is banned,” she said, including medicine and blankets; inmates are too cold to be able to sleep, as they are only allowed to wear the light clothing provided by the prison”
The authorities have not permitted Mona Imam to visit her son in prison for the past five months, without citing any reasons. Nor have they made any comments in public about Gehad El-Haddad’s situation.