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Egypt: former minister has stroke in prison

former Minister of Local Development Mohamed Ali Beshr [Arabi21]
former Minister of Local Development Mohamed Ali Beshr [Arabi21]

A former Egyptian minister and governor has suffered a stroke in the Tora prison complex, south of the capital Cairo, amid mounting concern about his health. There has been a ban on visits to former Minister of Local Development Mohamed Ali Beshr, 71, since 2018.

Beshr's family said that they had heard about the stroke and that he had been transferred to a hospital outside the prison for treatment. "We tried hard to obtain information about his health through legal and personal sources, but unfortunately we were unable to do so, due to the denial of our visits since 2018, and there is no communication between him and his lawyers," explained the family. "This news has doubled our concern for him and his health under harsh prison conditions such as those in Al-Aqrab Prison [within the Tora prison complex]."

As a prominent Muslim Brotherhood official, Beshr was a mediator with the regime after the 2013 coup against the first democratically-elected civilian president, Mohamed Morsi. Family members have asked that he be released on health grounds. Stressing Beshr's trade union, political and charitable activities throughout his life, his family said that, "The time has come for him to receive dignified and humane treatment worthy of his record of service to Egypt, status, age and health conditions."

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Beshr was the governor of Menoufia then Minister of Local Development in Hisham Qandil's government until 2013. After the coup, he was responsible for communicating with the EU and foreign political figures, including the then EU High Commissioner, Catherine Ashton. In return, the state dealt with him as a mediator between Cairo and the Brotherhood; officials had no qualms about talking to him.

Nevertheless, he was arrested in November 2014, and his detention has been renewed regularly ever since, despite the deterioration of his health. At first, he was charged with espionage involving America and Norway, before he was added to the case of the attempted assassination of Assistant Public Prosecutor Zakaria Abdel Aziz.

Local and international human rights organisations say that the charges are politically motivated and fabricated. Doubts have been expressed about the integrity of the Egyptian judiciary, with calls for sentences handed down to opponents of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's regime to be overturned.

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