Shortly after his arrest on September 29 from the Dokki police station, where he had been serving a probation sentence, activist and writer Alaa Abd El Fattah was blindfolded and taken to the maximum security wing of Tora Prison.
A press release issued by his family on October 9 recounts beatings and humiliation they say Abd El Fattah endured once he arrived to prison.
“He was slapped and kicked as he passed the prison door, was told to strip to his underwear, then forced to walk down a corridor of people as he was beaten on his back and his neck. This is known as the “welcome parade”, and is routine abuse in Egypt’s prisons. It lasted 15 minutes,” the statement read.
Following the “welcome parade”, an officer told Alaa that he hates the revolution and hates him and that prison is made to ‘teach people like you a lesson’ and that he “will be in prison for the rest of his life.”
Whenever the door of his cell was opened, prison guards would ask him to face the wall, and they would insult him, the statement said. Abd El Fattah was also robbed of clothes his family had sent him.
According to the family of Abd El Fattah, he had been spared this level of physical abuse in past prison stints, protected by his high profile. “It seems some calculation has changed,” the family said Abd El Fattah served five years in prison for breaking the protest law, and is now facing an additional 5 years of legally contested probation, in which he spends 12 hours of his day at the local police station from which he was arrested last month.
During Abd El Fattah’s first interrogation after his arrest, Mohamed al-Baqer, one of Abd El Fattah’s lawyers and head of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, was informed of a warrant for his own arrest as part of Case 1365/2019, which is the same case to which Abd El Fattah had been assigned. Baqer was arrested and detained as well, and his remand detention was renewed on October 9.
Abd El Fattah and Baqer currently face charges of joining an illegal organization, receiving foreign funding through said organization, and spreading false news through a misuse of social media.
Baqer has faced a similar experience to Abd El Fattah’s, his wife, Neama Hesham, told Mada Masr.
During the hearing to renew his remand detention order, Baqer testified that he was taken to the maximum security wing of Tora Prison on September 30, where he was blindfolded and forced to bend over and walk under a shower of insults from the officers. Baqer was then stripped of everything he was arrested with, and was made to wear a prison uniform while blindfolded, Hesham said.
Baqer wasn’t permitted to take a shower, and spent 9 days in the same clothes. He was not allowed to see a doctor or buy bottled water or food from the prison canteen, his wife said.
Before his latest arrest, Abd El Fattah had published an essay on life in prison, in which he details events like the “welcome parade” as a common practice in prison.
As Abd El Fattah was being moved for a hearing on his remand detention renewal on October 9, the head of Tora Prison’s investigations told him that “if he spoke about what happened they would beat him more and worse,” his family said.
At the remand detention renewal hearing before the Supreme State Security Prosecution, Abdel Fattah filed a detailed complaint against the prison’s administration. The prosecution then renewed his detention for 15 more days. During his own remand detention renewal hearing, Baqer asked to be transferred from Tora Prison.
According to human rights lawyer Gamal Eid, the maximum security wing of Tora Prison was established in 2014 as part of a prison expansion plan in response to the “rising number of political prisoners since 2013.”
Abd El Fattah and Baqer’s arrests come in the wake of what is considered the largest arrest campaign since President Abd El Fattah al-Sisi took over in 2014, with more than 3,000 people arrested, according to human rights groups’ estimates. The arrests followed a number of anti-government protests on September 20 and 21.