Press Release

June 21, 1997

Prisoners of conscience tortured at Tora Prison

The Center for Human Rights Legal Aid (CHRLA) is deeply concerned by reports of abuse and human rights violations carried out by Tora Prison authorities against four persons detained for their nonviolent opposition to the new agricultural land use law: Hamdeen Sabahy, a journalist, Mohammed Abdu, a physician, Mohammed Suliaman Fayad, a lawyer and Hamdy Heikal, currently under arrest in State Security case no. 795 of 1997.

The four men were arrested last Tuesday morning and transferred to the Public Prosecution Office. The following day the Public Prosecution Office gave the four men a 15-day detention order pending the outcome of investigations. The Prosecution's order was based on State Security Investigations (SSI) allegations that the four men held a meeting to discuss their political plan against Law no. 96 of 1992 governing relations between agricultural landowners and tenants. In addition, the four men had also called on tenant farmers to collect signatures, write appeals and strike in opposition to the law, which would force them to evacuate their lands.

According to information CHRLA received Saturday morning from Hamdeen Sabahy's wife, the four men were questioned and then transferred to Tora Prison. There they were forced to take off their clothes and were beaten, kicked, and whipped over a four hour period by 30 soldiers led by the officer Mohammed Mohammad Selim. This abuse rendered the four men temporarily paralyzed and unconscious.

CHRLA expresses its deep concern over the transfer of the four prisoners to a heavily guarded jail at Tora Prison known as the Scorpion. As a result of this transfer, the four men are unable to contact their lawyers or relatives under a Ministry of Interior ban on visits to Scorpion's prisoners. This practice blatantly violates all legal orders and rules of the Egyptian Jail Law.

Information obtained by the CHRLA also reveals that the four prisoners' relatives were not allowed to visit them despite the fact that they obtained an official visit permit.

The four men were transferred to the Scorpion jail after an officer, Mohammed Mohammad Selim, accused them of revolting inside Tora Prison. Their personal items were seized and they were placed in a cell at Scorpion measuring 1.5 x 2 meters.

CHRLA calls on the Public Prosecutor to investigate these claims immediately, obtain medical care for the four men, and punish those persons at Tora Prison responsible for the abuse. CHRLA also appeals to Major General Hasan El Alfy, Minister of the Interior, to lift all restrictions on visits to Scorpion Jail, and permit lawyers and human rights activists to investigate the actual conditions inside the prison.

Lawyers from CHRLA have filed complaint no. 163 of 1997 with the Public Prosecutor about the torture and abuse of these four men.

Finally, CHRLA repeats its demand for the immediate release of the four prisoners, who are being held for the peaceful expression of their opinions, a right guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution as well as by international human rights covenants ratified by the Egyptian government.

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