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Amnesty International: 130 Egyptian detainees on hunger strike for 6 weeks

Detainees are held in overcrowded cells full of insects with a temperature of more than 40C in the summer, says Amnesty

Amnesty International announced yesterday that 130 political prisoners in the heavily guarded Scorpion Prison in Egypt have been on hunger strike for six weeks. This is due to the harsh and inhumane detention conditions.

The international human rights organisation said that among the repressive practices by the authorities against detainees in the Scorpion Prison is the prevention of family visits and legal consultations for more than two years.

The organisation said that instead of taking measures to alleviate the harsh conditions of detention, the authorities have reprimanded the detainees with beatings and electric shocks. Moreover, some have been punished through disciplinary actions in an attempt to force them to end their hunger strike, according to a statement issued by the detainees from the prison. At least ten hunger strikers have been blindfolded and taken to special cells which they are not allowed to leave throughout the day.

However, activists advocating the rights of political prisoners in Egypt told MEMO that the number of prisoners on hunger strike is over 500 in the Scorpion wing of Tora Prison. Their strike has been met with violence by the prison authorities, who used nerve gas and electric detonators against them; they are refusing to administer a glucose solution until their blood sugar becomes dangerously low, wrote one prisoner in a letter from inside the prison.

Magdalena Magrabi, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Regional Office, said that the Egyptian authorities have "pushed dozens of detainees at Scorpion Prison to the point of a nervous breakdown. The harsh and inhumane conditions of detention and deprivation of family visits as well as preventing detainees from communicating with their lawyers, for more than two years in some cases, have created an unbearable situation for the detainees."

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Based on the court documents, the organisation asserts that the majority of hunger strikers were subjected to enforced disappearance before their trial. These could range between 11 to 155 days before the Egyptian authorities admitted detaining and bringing them before the prosecution. Many of them said they had suffered torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the National Security police officers.

In an interview with some of the relatives of the detainees in Scorpion Prison, the families explained to Amnesty International; authorities prevented them from visiting their people and relatives. They have also abused them physically, insulting them and sometimes not allowing them to enter the courtroom.

Amnesty confirmed that many detainees had already been on hunger strike in October 2017 and February 2018 and ended their protest based on assurances that they would be allowed to receive family visits, but these promises have never been met.

Amnesty said: detainees are held in overcrowded cells full of mosquitoes, flies and other insects, with a temperature of more than 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, without any fans or appropriate ventilation. Prison authorities also deprive detainees of receiving adequate health care, do not allow them to receive food or drinks from their families outside the prison, and impose restrictions on clothes and medicines.

Magrabi concluded by saying: "There can be no justification for the cruel and inhuman treatment of these detainees. The Egyptian authorities must urgently ensure that all persons in their custody receive adequate medical care and food and be held prisoners in healthy conditions and well-ventilated cells following the International Law."

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