CAIRO: Amid widespread detentions and sweeping arrests witnessed over the past several months, those netted in indiscriminate group arrests remain behind bars for charges they did not commit, according to interviews conducted by The Cairo Post.
Belal Khalil, 20, is a handicapped student who was charged alongside 219 others with murder and attempted murder after being arrested “randomly” during the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, his father told The Cairo Post.
The father, Khalil Fathy, said the Abdeen Prosecution referred his son and the other defendants to criminal court on 15 charges.
“The minor charge would end with Belal behind bars for 25 years,” he said.
He said his son was taking money from an ATM near the Press Syndicate, where protests broke out during the anniversary, when a police officer “randomly arrested him after asking him impolitely about his national ID.”
Fathy, a journalist and a member of the Press Syndicate, said what happened to his son “was a farce,” adding that his son has no political affiliations.
Belal Khalil suffers from epilepsy and nerves in his right hand are weak, so weak that he cannot hold a pen, his father said.
“How can someone in Belal’s condition be accused of carrying a bag full of Molotov cocktails as mentioned in the report filed against him?” he asked.
Belal’s lawyer, Mohamed Mahmoud, told The Cairo Post that the 220 defendants are facing “fabricated collective charges,” including murdering five people, attempted murder, attacking officers, damaging public and private installations, breaking the protest law, gathering and possession of Molotov cocktails.
Random arrests and collective charges are not the only problems facing citizens and activists, as complaints of physical abuse, molestation, sexual assault and electric shocks at police stations continue without proper investigation.
In a report released by The Guardian on Saturday, two Egyptian prisoners said they were subject to sexual assault while in custody, including torture, shocks to their genitals, beatings, and police officers used their fingers for anal penetration.
A Monday statement by the Interior Ministry denied the accusations. But several representatives of human rights groups told The Cairo Post that they have received similar complaints of beatings and sexual assaults by police officers.
“Indecent assaults against prisoners frequently occur in police custody, like beating them on their genitals, rape threats, molestation, dressing male prisoners in female clothes,” the head of the Arab Penal Reform Organization Mohamed Zarea told The Cairo Post.
Mahmoud said Belal was also subjected to torture, sexual assault and electric shock to his genitals at the Abdeen police station.
When the 220 defendants were transferred to the Central Security training center in Tora Prison, they faced further torture, humiliation, ripping off clothes and what is called “receptions,” which includes random beatings and assaults by police officers against incoming prisoners, Mahmoud said.
Mahmoud, who is also a lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), said Belal’s condition has deteriorated and he has been released pending the trial. He said that Belal’s medical reports were submitted to the Attorney General with the case file.
“The Interior Ministry has not changed, as random arrests and oppression of protesters and citizens still exists,” Mahmoud said.
The emergency law that was abolished is being replaced by another coercive law, the “counter–terrorism” amendments, he said.
In a Wednesday meeting between the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), President Adly Mansour and Interior Minister Mohamed, Mansour vowed to change the protest law and to limit random arrests, Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, deputy head of the NCHR, told The Cairo Post.
Another case of random arrest is Mahmoud Abdel Azim, a schizophrenic man who was picked up by police during the same anniversary events. His brother Mohamed was quoted by ONA as saying that he fears his brother, due to his mental condition, could harm other people in prison.
During an appearance in the court dock last Saturday, Abdel Azim appeared beating other people, causing a lot of commotion, reported ONA Monday.
Abdel Azim and 68 others are accused of gathering in an illegal protest, and were all sentenced to two years in prison.
Mohamed also submitted all of his brother’s medical reports to Azbakeya Prosecution, hoping to explain his brother’s condition.
Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, deputy head of NCHR, told The Cairo Post that Mansour also ordered re-investigation into the case of Abdel Azim and for him to be transferred to a hospital.