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Egyptian prisoners die 1,000 times in detention

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]

They die 1,000 times. This is how I describe the lives of those who have been sentenced to death in Egyptian prisons. They wait for death at any moment. But, waiting for death is death.

Injustice, oppression, and murder, that's the way you can envisage the slow death they experience since their arrest and the matter worsens after the death sentence is approved for these innocent people. You find out that one of those who were sentenced to death suffered from a chronic disease and another is over 70 and is unable to move.

The matter doesn't stop there. When they are sentenced to death, they are placed in disciplinary or special cells (solitary confinement).

The prison cell in which they place those who are sentenced to death in a dark room that looks exactly like a grave, two metres by three, and they are allowed to take only one blanket into this grave.

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There they open the door for them once a day to go to the bathroom… once a day… and give them a loaf of bread to eat for a whole day. And they remain in this state, waiting for someone to lead them to the gallows, at every moment they are being killed 1,000 times and they swallow the pain of injustice and oppression every moment.

I was in the Wadi Al-Natrun desert prison, and before they took my friends out of the cell, I bid them farewell. I didn't know it would be the last goodbye. They were later executed!

Amr Hashad is a human rights activist

In 2015, I had been moved to the Cairo Appeals Prison and was kept in a cell next to the guillotine room. One day I woke up early to the sound of wailing and screaming, then silence. In Egyptian prisons, the guillotine is known as the execution drum. I could hear the sound of creaking and the impact of the mountain of iron on a human body. It left me terrified.

The night before an execution there is a different energy in the prison, the walkways in front of the cells are wiped with soap and water, incense is burned. When the sun rises, you see the red suits with black covers on their heads.

I could hear screams from the second floor, recitation of the Quran, and others who have been driven mad by the wait for death.

Those being led to the execution chamber fear death, they rush to my cell asking for an escape. Looking through the little window in my door, I died before them. They enter the room, being pulled, dragged, pushed, beaten, screaming, wailing. The guillotine rises, the heart trembles, screams are heard, and then the collision.

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On the day they executed five, we saw them enter on their feet, and then the bodies were taken out and set aside in front of our eyes. The first, the second, the third… the sound of the screams could be heard by all. They put covers on their eyes, but we could all see. I fell to the ground in my cell, terrified. Death is easier than waiting.

Will this be the fate of thousands of the oppressed in Egyptian prisons and detention centres?

Can anyone answer us?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfricaArticleEgyptOpinion
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