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UN demands Egypt investigate torture allegations

October 18, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Relatives of those in prison speak through the bars in a court in Cairo on 9 August 2015 [Stringer/Apaimages]

The UN has condemned the arrest of prominent activists in Egypt and demanded the Egyptian government look into allegations that they were tortured in custody.

At the end of September Alaa Abdul Fattah was arrested at 6am from the police station where he slept as part of his probation conditions.

Alaa told his lawyers that he had been beaten, threatened and robbed inside prison. He was told by an officer that he would be in prison for the rest of his life and had all of his clothes apart from his underwear taken away from him.

He was warned that if he told anyone what was happening to him his treatment would get worse. His lawyer Mohammed Al-Baqer has also been arrested.

At the weekend Israa Abdelfattah was also arrested by plainclothes police officers who intercepted her car and took her away to an undisclosed place of detention where she has not been allowed to contact her family or lawyers.

When she was brought before prosecutors she told them a police officer had asked her for her mobile phone password and when she refused, took her jumper, wrapped it around her neck and attempted to strangle her until she gave it up.

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Alaa and Israa were arrested as part of a renewed sweep on members of the opposition that Amnesty has said is the most severe crackdown yet under the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Over 3,000 Egyptians have been arrested including 111 children.

The UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said: “People have a right to protest peacefully, and a right to express their opinions, including on social media.”

“They should never be arrested, detained – let alone charged with serious offences such as terrorism – simply for exercising those rights.”

Shamdasani called on Egypt to investigate any allegations of torture or ill-treatment in detention.

The UN call comes at the same time as London-based rights organisation Article 19 demanded the immediate release of human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry who was arrested on 22 September by security forces outside the Supreme State Security Prosecution building in Alexandria by three men and forced into a van.

El-Massry was detained for her role in defending people arrested during the 20 September protests.

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