Families of Al-Aqrab prison inmates were attacked in front of the visiting hall Sunday while they were waiting to visit their detained relatives, the Association of Relatives of the Al-Aqrab Prison Detainees said Monday.
The association condemned the attack, vowing to escalate the case to ensure that “all officers responsible for the incident will be punished”.
A member of the association and wife of one of the detainees said the incident started “when a security officer assaulted a girl. The families then protested, which resulted in the officers banning most of their visits. The families then tried to enter, only to be beaten and assaulted by the officers and soldiers”.
The wife, who refused to give her name due to security concerns about her detained husband, said some family members had to wait from six to 12 hours to visit their relatives. “Some of them live very far and cannot afford to come every day to check whether their visit is allowed or not. So they decide to sleep in the street and wait for the next day,” she said.
The Ministry of Interior was not available for comment or to provide information about the incident at the time of print. However it repeatedly denied any violations, physical or administrational, towards the visitors and asserted that families are allowed to visit their relatives.
In a separate incident, the London based group Human Rights Monitor reported a case in which police forces arrested a man named Khaled Ibrahim on 30 January while he was visiting his relative Mahmoud in Al-Aqrab prison. The group reported that Ibrahim’s family said their son did not return home after the visit. They presented many complaints and police reports to officials but it was all in vain.
“As for the detained relative in Al-Aqrab prison, he was arrested while passing through a security checkpoint,” the family said and suspected he was arrested because he had a “beard”.
The rights group said the incident illustrates that detention has become a “right for policemen” without any limits, increasing the wave of extra-judicial violations in the country. “By doing this, the Egyptian government has violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Since the military ousting of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the number of prisoners has increased exponentially with reported violations reaching a peak last November.
With reports of deaths and torture in detention on the rise in Egyptian police stations and prisons, state officials often respond to the accusations by asserting that the violations are “individual acts”.
Built in 1993 under the reign of notorious former minister of interior Habib Al-Adly, Al-Aqrab Prison hosted many political prisoners and high-profile inmates accused of being involved in terrorist activities. It continued to be used to host defendants accused of violence and terrorism. The majority of the detainees are accused of joining terrorist or militant groups. Activists call the prison “Egypt’s Guantanamo”, due to the allegedly harsh treatment inmates receive.
The infamous prison saw the deaths of three Islamist leaders in custody during the second half of 2015. The latest of these was Essam Derbala, leader of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, and head of the Building and Development Party.
In December 2015, families issued complaints about the mistreatment and torture of inmates in Al-Aqrab Prison. Dozens of detainee families gathered in front of the Press Syndicate to protest the treatment of the prisoners and demanded that the ministry allow winter clothing and visits. The ministry further denied all the complaints from the detainees’ families.