Political Prisoners' Families: Aqrab Prison Hunger-Strikers Protest Persistent, Escalating Violations
Political Prisoners' Families: Aqrab Prison Hunger-Strikers Protest Persistent, Escalating Violations
Monday, February 29,2016 11:29
The Aqrab Detainees Families Association (ADFA) affirms that a number of detainees in Aqrab Prison started an open-ended hunger-strike to protest the jail's flaunting of relevant laws, and to demand it conforms to the Constitution like all prisons in Egypt.

The political prisoners' hunger-strike is entitled "I am a human" and demands detainees' basic rights as follows:

1. A weekly visit for detainees' families, without glass barriers, which should be one hour long, as prescribed in the Prisons Act.

2. Improving the prison's food and water so they would be fit for human consumption, in terms of quality and quantity.

3. Allowing all essential personal items brought by families in visits – the least of which is food of appropriate quantity, and toiletries, medicines, personal hygiene items, clothes, blankets and books, which should not be confiscated by prison administration after the visit.

4. Granting detainees their right to exercise out of their cells for the daily period of time set in the Prisons Act.

The strike came after two weeks of extreme humiliation, violations and assaults on detainees' families trying to visit their loved ones, especially since February 10, as follows:

January 24 to February 10: All visits to Aqrab Prison were banned, and in some wings, tiny windows in cell doors (the only 'openings' they have) were blocked with heavy metal covers.

February 10: Visits were allowed again, but for a maximum of only 20 detainees a day. This forced families to spend the night outside the prison to stand any chance of seeing their loved ones the following day. This absurd limit was raised to an arbitrary 30 detainees a day, in a prison that holds over a thousand inmates.

February 14: Prison officers assaulted 4 visiting women, brutally beating, then arresting and holding them in custody. Those were: Salma Abdel-Rauf and her mother, Yomna and Rahma Khairy (two sisters). The officers' violence happened after they pushed families out, announcing they were stopping visits for the day. Then, visiting families who had not seen their loved ones as yet protested.

February 15 and 16: Forty-three detainees' families lodged collective complaints with the National Council for Human Rights protesting the ban on visits and the assaults and abuse they had to endure (eg complaint No. 949 dated February 15 and No. 1003 dated February 16, 2016).

February 17: Mohamed Rabie Zawahiri, Ismail Abdel-Qader Ibrahim and Nabil Abdel-Moneim El-Shahat, together with a number of young detainees, began a total hunger-strike, demanding decent treatment and their visit rights.

February 18: A number of detainees' families organized a demonstration at the entrance to the Journalists' Syndicate in protest against the conditions of their incarcerated loved ones in Aqrab Prison and the humiliation they suffer during visits.

February 23: Some of the families who were allowed a visit saw two young detainees being carried out from an exercise area. A prison official told them that because of the strike, they can no longer stand, let alone walk, and added that at least two others had to be hospitalized because of their hunger-strike.

February 24: A woman visiting her husband was hit in the face by a prison officer. Another officer hit a little girl on her back. Thus, at least six members of visiting families were assaulted in less than two weeks. Also, a prison visitors' bus overturned as they entered Aqrab Prison, because prison staff forced too many people on it. This accident caused injuries to many passengers, including fractures and bruises, while the wife of Magdi Mohamed Ibrahim suffered a broken right hand, and the wife of Mohamed Abdel-Wahab Mustafa had to be admitted to hospital in a critical condition.

February 24: Essam Sultan, Gihad Haddad and Mahmoud Barbary began an open-ended hunger-strike. On the same day, prison authorities prevented 60 families from visiting their loved ones.

February 25: Dr Ahmed Abdel-Aati, Dr Osama Yassin, Amin Sayrafi, Dr Essam Haddad, and other detainees joined the hunger strike.

February 27: Seven journalists detained in Aqrab Prison joined the strike. They were: Hisham Gaafar, Ahmed Subaie, Hassan Kabany, Walid Shalaby, Ahmed Saleh, Khaled Sahloub and Mohamed Nawareg.

Families of the detainees filed a report to the Public Prosecutor to protest the deteriorating conditions in Aqrab Prison, and held a press conference at the Journalists' Syndicate.

On the same day, hunger-strikers were threatened by the prison administration with removal to remote prisons, if the strike was not called off.

ADFA will publish updated data and information on any new developments in the hunger-strike and the strikers' situation in Aqrab Prison.