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51 rights groups call of Egypt to release detained academic at risk of death

May 3, 2023 at 11:01 am

Political prisoner Salah Soltan [@ColossusDiplo/Twitter]

Egypt should release the detained academic Salah Soltan who is at risk of death and ensure he has access to life-saving health care, 51 human rights organisations have said today.

Soltan was arrested following the 2013 coup then sentenced to life in prison four years later in a mass trial with no due process. Authorities did not give credible evidence for the charges against him.

The Islamic scholar is being held in Badr 1 prison, which was recently labelled a “slaughterhouse” by human rights groups because there have been so many suicide attempts due to the poor conditions people are held in.

In a letter Soltan wrote that was leaked in March, he said that he had not been allowed access to appropriate health care despite suffering from life-threatening heart and liver diseases.

Soltan’s health has been a cause for concern for years. Last year, his family reported that he was carried into a room by the prison guards when they visited because he was too weak to walk himself.

At that time, 19 human rights organisations called on the Egyptian government to urgently administer health care to him.

OPINION: Why do they commit suicide in Egypt prisons?

There have been two incidents in which Soltan lost consciousness and has suffered extreme chest pain, according to the statement released today.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that the deliberate denial of health care may amount to torture and that independent doctors have said that Soltan is at increased risk of sudden death.

“On top of railroading him in an unfair trial, Egyptian authorities are deliberately abusing Salah Soltan’s rights by failing to provide him with health care,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

“The authorities should at minimum transfer him to a qualified medical facility where independent health professionals can treat him without hindrance.”

The co-signing organisations, which include the Committee for Justice, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and the Danish Institute Against Torture, said that Soltan’s arrest appears to be in retaliation for his son’s work.

In 2020 Mohamed Soltan, a former political prisoner, filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi holding him responsible for the torture he suffered whilst in prison.

Six of Mohamed’s relatives were arrested inside prison and Soltan was forcibly disappeared inside the prison system for a year.