Ikhwanweb is publishing a series of interviews that were conducted with a number of Muslim Brotherhood members who were acquitted from the most notorious military tribunal last April. After some 70 court sessions in a period of fourteen months which observers and media were not allowed to monitor, and after civil courts dropped all charges against defendants and deemed them “politically motivated” the verdict session was held in the absence of the accused and their defense panel who did not even have a copy of the rulings. Of the 40 defendants, 15 have been acquitted; two have been sentenced to seven years in jail (including Khairat El Shater MB deputy chairman), five to five years, 13 to three years, and another five to ten years in absentia.
Due to his health conditions, our interview with Hassan Zalat was postponed several times till we met him before he travelled to Germany for medical treatment.
Zalat narrates, “Just after my acquittal was announced, residents of my town in Gharbiya Governorate rushed to my house at Al-Tagamu Al Khames with a big number of cars to hold a huge reception party for me. When I saw it from a distance, I thought it was a wedding party of a neighbor, but when I knew it was for me I thanked them but apologized to all of them, because I cannot celebrate while my brothers are still behind bars.
Zalat smiled as he recounted the effect of good words on souls of officers and guards. An officer told him that he feels ashamed when he takes any of these great leaders to their cells or guards them. Another officer became more watchful to his prayers and a third abandoned bribery.
A group of love and reform
Zalat spoke about the detained leaders, "We are a group of love and reform. Our hearts are filled with love for Egypt and we seek wellbeing for everybody. We are not a group of violence or sabotage. We never seek positions or seats; we only work for the sake of our cause. The Muslim Brotherhood is a group that loves its homeland and seeks its development and prosperity. The regime should use this love from the group for reform. I observe Egypt with fear and concern. Seeing crises and pressures, I feel there is a looming revolution of the hungry."
El Shater and Egypt
Zalat lovingly remembered one of the fellow leaders, Khairat El Shater, saying," But for my disease, I would have demanded the security release El Shater and jail me instead because he loves Egypt more than me. He is a man with good faith, and he has an extraordinary economic mindset.”
Zalat directed his words to the young and coming generation of the Muslim Brotherhood, saying" I hope that the coming generation will learn patience, steadfastness and sincerity from the older generation. I hope that the younger respects the older. I hope also that they don"t believe rumors and to be tolerant with police and state security officials who have to obey the orders of their superiors."
To the Egyptian regime, Zalat said." You have made of me a leader although I am an ordinary man.”
“I ask you: don"t you have a wise man who can sit with these people to listen to them and stop their suffering and detentions? Where will these currently jobless 3500 workers go?”
Illness and detention
Zalat recounted some of his suffering with disease during the past one and a half years in prison and how the increasing bell sound rattled him from his sleep and made him hurry to open the door, causing him a heart attack, but he thanked the officer who came to arrest him, he thanks him because he allowed him to do some first aid and he - the officer- didn"t allow security forces to storm into the house until Zalat calmed down and allowed him to take his time in preparing his bag and the medicine he needs.
Regarding the first days of detention and before moving him to receive treatment, Zalat said:" I was detained 3 months after my brothers were detained. It was a very painful period as I was expecting detention at any moment. My detention was delayed because I was living in Gharbiya Governorate and then moved to Cairo, and the security services were still unaware of my new residence. On my arrival at the Torah farm prison, my brothers received me warmly in a way that made me forget suffering and pains".
Fourteen months in prison hospital
Zalat said:" when I was detained, I was moved to the police station and then to the military prosecution. At 12 : 30 in the afternoon, I was moved to Torah prison. The 6 hours tour made me fully exhausted and I suddenly developed a heart attack and I was about to die. My brothers demanded to move me urgently to hospital and the prison doctor said:" I cannot bear his responsibility." Then I was moved to the intensive care nine days after my detention, and I remained in hospital prison until I was acquitted and released.
But the hospital wasn"t that different from prison: There was a heavy security, visits were denied and the treatment was no more than some painkillers.
My psychological and health conditions moved from bad to worse. After the security services froze my assets, I asked them to leave me some money for treatment, but they refused. Then, I demanded that I receive treatment at the expense of the country, but they refused this demand as well."
"On every session of the military trial, the defense team was demanding necessarily seeing my health condition and finding a solution for this problem and it was in every session receiving promises that medical councils will be addressed, but these were merely hollow promises."
This continued for five months and my health deteriorated so much and heart attacks continued even while I am asleep without exerting any effort. My brothers collected the money called for my treatment, but the approval to move me to another hospital to receive the required treatment at my expense was delayed for a very long period. I received this only 15 days before the verdict session, making me prefer to wait for the verdict session which spawned my acquittal."
I am no criminal
Asked about his reaction to the decision of referring him to a military tribunal, Zalat said:" I was shocked, a state of amazement bitterness for feeling of injustice. I found my name listed in a case that I do not know about. I have no relation with money to be indicted in a money laundry case. I am an employee, I work as a purchase and stores manager and I get my salary in return for this. I found myself tried in a crime that I did not commit. I was looking around me and see only injustice, and wonder: " where is the rule of law?! And where is fair justice?!" And a scream comes from inside me:" I am not a criminal, why am I here, and why are the Muslim Brotherhood leaders here?! And why are the criminals who trade contaminated bad blood loose and free?!
These trials are a mere farce: a heap of injustice, oppression and psychological humiliation not only to detainees but to their families as well. The regime does not protect the dignity of the citizens, and does not respect even their humanity. Is there a regime that detains university professors and businessmen?! Is there a regime that throws the elite and best men of the country behind bars? Although I was shocked I was confident that all will end well.
Asked what he suffered from most during his hospital stay, he said:" I was imagining what the feelings of oppression and humiliation that my wife and children face when they come to visit me, and my pain and disease aggravate but I was asking them to be patient.
"We are still as we were before detention, we will never change. Our principles are the same, our love for all, and the rollercoaster of our movement will move and will never stop.”