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75% of detainees in Tora Istiqbal Prison on hunger strike

Watch towers at Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
Watch towers at Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

A hunger strike in Tora Istiqbal Prison in place since Sunday has escalated to reach nearly 75 per cent of inmates at the prison.

We Record human rights organisation said that all prisoners in cell A declared they were going on hunger strike, except for four cells, while 70 per cent of block B announced they would join the strike, 50 per cent of ward C, and 100 per cent of block D.

It was sparked by the torture of two inmates with electric shocks earlier this month. They were stripped of their clothes, their cells emptied, and they were taken to disciplinary cells in their underwear.

Other detainees have had their food, mattresses, fans and personal belongings confiscated from the cells, are prohibited from visiting the clinic, the canteen, and the exercise yard, and are placed in handcuffs when their family come to visit.

Detainees are demanding a credible investigation is carried out into the treatment of the detainees and until then are not eating the small amounts of food supplied by the prison administration.

Already the elderly and prisoners with chronic diseases or deteriorating health conditions’ lives are at risk from the shortage of food.

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Last month, the Interior Minister announced that four detainees and four prison guards had been killed after an attempted prison break in Scorpion Prison, also part of the Tora complex, and rights advocates say that these arbitrary measures are in reaction to this incident.

Shortly after, 15 political prisoners on the same block as the alleged prison break were executed in what rights advocates have said is a warning to the rest of the witnesses to keep their mouth shut.

A number of rights groups have cast suspicion over the Interior Ministry’s version of events, given that Scorpion is one of the most secured prisons in the country.

The harsh measures against detainees is also thought to be related.

In a joint statement several NGOs including The Committee for Justice, ANHRI and Al Nadeem Centre rejected the Egyptian authorities’ treatment of detainees:

“The undersigned human rights organisations categorically reject the continued policy of humiliation practiced by Egyptian authorities against detainees, especially political prisoners.”

“Such policy will only lead to more negative consequences as a number of detainees in the Istiqbal Tora prison, south of Cairo, have started a hunger strike to object to the prison administration’s mistreatment of two of their colleagues.”

They also warned that these arbitrary measures may “prelude a heinous crackdown against political detainees” as similar campaigns begin in other prisons.

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