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500 political prisoners in Egypt on 38th day of hunger strike ‘neglected’

Relatives speak with Egyptian prisoners as they stand behind bars in a court in Cairo on 9 August 2015 [Stringer/Apaimages]
Relatives of those in prison speak through the bars in a court in Cairo on 9 August 2015 [Stringer/Apaimages]

Over 500 political prisoners in the Scorpion wing of Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison have reached day 38 of their hunger strike, which they began in June to protest against the death of former President Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi died on 17 June after collapsing in a courtroom. He was kept in solitary confinement for six years and consistently denied medical attention, as are thousands of inmates imprisoned in Egypt’s jails.

El-Nadeem NGO details 283 cases of individual torture, 30 deaths in custody and 111 people who have been subject to medical negligence in the first half of 2019.

Earlier this week, two political prisoners in Egypt, Omar Adel and Kilani Hassan, died after being kept in inhumane conditions. Hassan was denied medical care.

The hunger strike in Tora Prison aims to stop the ill treatment of prisoners and challenge the deliberate refusal to administer medical attention by authorities, the prevention of visits and the ban on detainees exercising.

In the aftermath of Morsi’s death authorities prevented a number of families from visiting their loved ones, though this is a common punitive measure already in force against many prisoners.

Authorities also raised the price of special permits to visit family members by 500 per cent in an attempt to quell the negative publicity that followed Morsi’s death.

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Initially authorities ignored and neglected the strike, wrote one of the strikers in a letter, until a day later when they resorted to violence:

The cells were stormed by special forces equipped with firearms, nerve gas, tear gas and electric detonators… we heard the sound of cells [being] opened, the sound of shots and [the] voices of the special forces and national security officers.

“The officers carried the detainees on their stomachs on the ground and fired shots,” the letter continued,  “and sprayed nerve gas.”

Authorities in the prison issued the decision not to give prisoners a glucose solution until their sugar levels were dangerously low at 30; eventually they asked a prisoner who had been detained on criminal charges to administer the solution and he used the same needle for a number of the patients.

“Neglect is increasing and there wasn’t any negotiation with the strikers,” wrote the prisoner.

“We send a message to all the organs of the state and officials to move to end this farce, and give them their legal rights. Everyone is responsible for what will happen to any one of [these] innocent detainees.”

In desperation at their prison conditions and disillusioned by the judicial system, many Egyptian detainees have gone on hunger strike to try and force the Egyptian authorities to give them a fair trial and improve their circumstances including Mohamed Soltan, who spent most of his two-year detention on hunger strike before being released.

Ola Al-Qaradawi, daughter of the influential scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, is currently on hunger strike at Al-Qanater women’s prison after being returned to pre-trial detention in solitary confinement after two years.

READ: ‘I’m dying of torture’ Egypt prisoner tells mother two days before his death

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