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UN: Egypt prison conditions may have led to Morsi’s death

Late former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi sits behind bars during his trail on 21 March 2016 [Stranger/Apaimages]
Late former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi sits behind bars during his trail on 21 March 2016 [Stranger/Apaimages]

The prison conditions in Egypt may have directly led to the death of former President Mohamed Morsi, and may be placing the health and lives of thousands more prisoners at severe risk, UN independent experts said today.

“Dr. Morsi was held in conditions that can only be described as brutal, particularly during his five-year detention in the Tora prison complex,” the experts said. “Dr. Morsi’s death after enduring those conditions could amount to a State-sanctioned arbitrary killing.”

A statement released by the Office of the High Commissioner of UN Human Rights, said:

We have received credible evidence from various sources that thousands more detainees across Egypt may be suffering gross violations of their human rights, many of whom may be at high risk of death.

The UN body urged Egypt to “promptly address its prison conditions and reverse what appears to be deeply entrenched practices that are severely infringing on people’s right to life, the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention, the right not to be subjected to torture or ill-treatment, the right to due process and a fair trial, and adequate medical care.” 

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Outlining the torture Morsi was subjected to, the experts said he “was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day … He was not allowed to see other prisoners, even during the one hour a day when he was permitted to exercise. He was forced to sleep on a concrete floor with only one or two blankets for protection. He was not allowed access to books, journals, writing materials or a radio.”

“Dr. Morsi was denied life-saving and ongoing care for his diabetes and high blood pressure. He progressively lost the vision in his left eye, had recurrent diabetic comas and fainted repeatedly. From this, he suffered significant tooth decay and gum infections.”

They warned that other prisoners could be subject to the same fate as a result of their continued detainment at the hands of Egyptian authorities.

“Thousands of other prisoners in Egypt may also be at risk of death or irreparable damage to their health because of inadequate conditions of detention, compounded by rampant violations of due process, including detention without charge, incommunicado detention, inadequate access to lawyers, and other practices preventing a fair trial.”

The UN’s statement comes as activists around the world are launching a 48-hour hunger strike this weekend to raise awareness of the plight of political prisoners in Egyptian jails who they say are being subjected to torture and denied their human rights.

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AfricaEgyptInternational OrganisationsNewsUN
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