The number of deaths among political prisoners inside the Badr Prison Complex in Cairo has risen to four, just a few months after opening the huge complex. This follows the death of detainee Hassan Diab Hassan inside his cell in Badr 3 Prison due to medical negligence.
The Egyptian regime opened the prison complex at the beginning of the year, under the name Badr Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre, in the city of Badr, located within the Cairo governorate. This was two months after opening a similar centre in the Wadi El-Natrun area located between Cairo and Alexandria, within the framework of the so-called "National Strategy for Human Rights" launched by the head of the coup-led authority, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, in September last year.
Nabih Al-Janadi, a lawyer for several political prisoners, shared in press statements that the deceased did not receive any first aid, and the prison administration ignored the demands of his colleagues to remove Hassan from the cell and transfer him to the prison hospital. Al-Janadi called for a fair investigation into the circumstances of his death and the conditions of detention in the prison.
Human rights organisations, including the Al-Shehab Centre for Human Rights, recorded the deaths of three other prisoners in the same prison within a few months, in addition to the increase in detainees' complaints about the harsh conditions of detention. Conditions have not changed despite the Egyptian government's allegations of adopting a new strategy for human rights inside prisons and establishing these huge complexes to achieve this.
Hassan, 47, from the Qalyubia governorate north of Cairo, is serving a prison sentence issued by a military court. He was transferred from Minya General Prison, south of Cairo, to Badr 3 Prison a few weeks ago and has yet to receive proper care.
The police and judicial investigation authorities failed to open any investigation into the violations against prisoners in the new prison complexes, despite being greatly promoted locally and internationally by the Egyptian regime. The regime advertises them as modern prison complexes providing the greatest care and attention to prisoners. They were also said to have been equipped with modern technological systems that reduce friction between the prison and prisoners, in addition to using the term "inmate" instead of "prisoner".
The first of those who died last October was Muhammad Abdul Hamid Al-Saifi, 61, accused in the case of the assassination of the Public Prosecutor, and the second was named Alaa Muhammad Abdul Ghani Al-Salami, 47, who died two months after he started a hunger strike in mid-November. Majdi Abdo Al-Shabrawy, 58, died due to kidney failure and the deterioration of his health, according to the Egyptian Network for Human Rights.
The prison authorities transferred to the two complexes (Badr and Natroun) prisoners from 15 public prisons: Cairo Appeal, Liman Tora, Cairo Batra, Banha, Alexandria, Tanta Public, Mansoura, Shebeen El-Kom, Zagazig, Old Damanhour, Beheira Labor Camp, Minya Public, in addition to three prisons, including the notorious Scorpion prison in the Tora prison complex.
The new Badr complex is located 55 kilometres northeast of the capital and was built on an area of 85 acres. It is an annexe within a huge security complex that includes three correctional and rehabilitation centres (formerly prisons). However, the miserable conditions of political prisoners have not changed, according to several of the detainees' families, and are possibly worse than the notorious Scorpion prison.
Executive Director of the Egyptian Network for Human Rights Ahmed Al-Attar says: "The prison complex in Badr was divided into three prisons: Badr 1 for political and criminal prisoners, Badr 2 for women and Badr 3 for Islamist politicians. The prisoners of Scorpion Prison were transferred to it last August, but the terrible conditions of the prisoners made it lose its credibility, and the effects of the propaganda faded faster than expected."
Al-Attar revealed in statements to Arabi 21: "The difference is in the appearance, not the content, and the methods of torment and denial of medical care, visits and exercise remain the same, in addition to preventing the entry of the detainees' belongings, personal objects and books. Many inmates haven't been allowed visitors, and the authorities remain inflexible with their families, denying them from seeing each other for years."
According to Al-Attar, the new prison complex was an attempt by the regime to control the largest number of prisons in one or two large complexes and to use modern equipment and technology to tighten control over political detainees and place them under a strict monitoring system, similar to the conditions in Guantanamo. At the same time, the regime is delivering deceptive messages to the outside world, claiming there is a new prison system with the latest technology and that it applied international human rights standards, which is untrue according to the activist.
Two months ago, Ahmed Abdel Moneim, the son of the former presidential candidate and head of the Strong Egypt Party, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, accused the individual responsible for transferring his father from Tora Mazraa prison to Badr Prison of attempted premeditated murder. Moneim posted on his Facebook account: "My father was transferred to Badr Prison without clothes or a blanket, and he was placed in a solitary cell, monitored by cameras and lit all day, without a bed or chair."
A number of prisoners, including political activist Alaa Abdelfattah, resorted to a complete hunger strike, without food or drink, in protest of the deplorable conditions of detention and the prison administration's use of the modern systems to violate the privacy of detainees, disturbing them and depriving them of their rights. They described their conditions as worse than Scorpion prison and more like the infamous US Guantanamo Bay prison.
The director of the Shehab Organisation for Human Rights, Khalaf Bayoumi, told Arabi 21: "The security treatment has not changed, and the poor conditions of the detainees' lives inside the cells have become more negative, after modern systems and equipment, such as surveillance cameras, are on all day, violating personal rights and privacy, and the lights are on all night, causing sleep deprivation. This violates prisoners' privacy and rights, which are exceptional measures that are difficult to bear."
Regarding the detainees' conditions not changing, despite the cost of the prison complex and its widespread publicity, Khalaf added: "We did not get ahead of ourselves and instead waited to see and hear about the new measures that would be a shift in the field of respect for human rights, but I was surprised by many complaints from prisoners and their families, and deaths as a result of medical negligence, which is the worst outcome of the prisoners' treatment. The number of murders in Badr prison reached four within a very short period of time."
The Egyptian activist continued: "The issue lies in the psychological rehabilitation of police officers and guards in dealing with people, whether inside or outside prisons. It also lies in the failure of the Public Prosecution to carry out its responsibility regarding violations committed inside prisons."