Seven people died in Egypt’s prisons due to medical negligence in January alone, the New Khaleej has reported, highlighting the plight of the thousands jailed by the Egyptian authorities.
Lawyer Bakr Imran confirmed to reporters this week that several families of other detainees have been notified of the deaths of their loved ones while in prison, claiming their health had deteriorated while in detention. He mentioned the case of several prisoners, including Abdullah Ibrahim who was refused treatment by authorities – even at Ibrahim’s own financial expense – causing his health to deteriorate and his eventual death.
Those who have protested their harsh conditions have also faced abuse. Imran revealed the case of the prisoner Jumah Mashhour, who was left naked in the harsh cold for four days as punishment from the administration for protesting the harsh circumstances in the prison.
Thousands of Egyptians have been arbitrarily sentenced on charges of terrorism since the 2013 coup, alleging they have links to the now banned Muslim Brotherhood party. Imran noted the case of Abdellatif Cain, who was arrested in the aftermath of Rabaa massacre and sentenced to five years in prison. Although being due for release last summer, he was held contravention of the law, despite suffering from stomach cancer during his imprisonment. His health subsequently worsened, leading to his death this month on 6 January.
According to human rights activists, hundreds of detainees are also over the age of 60 but are denied medical care for conditions required given their old age. Former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister, Mohammed Ali Beshr, is another prisoner believed to be in critical condition as a result of poor treatment in the prison of Lehman Tora; his family’s request to visit him has been denied.
Activists have called on the international community to highlight the “slow death” in Egyptian prisons as a result of deliberate medical negligence, which they say is expected to increase after the hunger strike that was conducted this month on the anniversary of the January revolution.
Since becoming president following a military coup in 2013, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron fist. The government has launched a crackdown on anyone suspected of opposing Al-Sisi, with former Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi – the country’s first democratically elected leader – also imprisoned in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison.
Amnesty International has described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any dissent and create an atmosphere of fear. Abuse and extrajudicial killings are common, with a recent report accusing the Egyptian government of kidnapping and torturing children, providing evidence that at least six children have been tortured in custody and a further 12 have been disappeared from their families since 2015.