CAIRO: State-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) requested to visit two prisoners in response to public pressure. In a press statement released on Thursday, NCHR stated it received a letter from 133 public figures demanding them to visit Al-Jazeera’s detained journalist Abdallah Al-Shamy and detained political activist Mohamed Sultan.
“The letter was sent by university professors, politicians, media people, artists, and writers demanding action to be taken regarding the detainees’ health conditions,” the statement announced.
Concerns rose about the deteriorating health condition of Shamy on a hunger strike since Jan. 21 and Sultan who has been on a hunger strike for 117 days.
Shamy, a reporter for Al-Jazeera Arabic, has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 21 and was detained in August while covering the dispersal of Rabaa al-Adaweya, facing trial on the charges of attempted murder, joining an armed gang, assaulting security forces, and other related charges.
Shamy’s case sparked public anger after the Ministry of Interior published pictures of Shamy that would suggest he was pretending to be on a hunger strike to strengthen his plight.
Shamy’s pictures went viral on social media websites, showing him eating and drinking in large quantities, in an attempt to counter-fight claims of Shamy’s hunger strike. Shamy had sent several messages in letters, pictures, and videos from jail showing how much weight he lost since his detention and appearing in poor health conditions.
On Thursday, the media published a copy of a letter allegedly sent by Shamy’s family, reacting to the pictures published by security authorities, stating that their concerns increased regarding the pressure practiced on Shamy and forced-feeding to manipulate him to end his strike.
In their letter, Shamy’s family said the pictures were not proof of anything because when they visited him in jail on May 18, Shamy confirmed to them he was being pressured to end his strike. He was put in an isolated cell and threatened to be denied family visits. The family accused the police of spreading lies about Shamy after his case attracted global attention.
The Freedom for the Brave movement supporting detainees and prisoners of conscience condemned the Ministry of Interior’s act in a press statement on Thursday. “Instead of responding to global calls to release Shamy or allow him medical examination, the state decided to display photos that only made us worry more about him,” the movement announced.
In May, a number of local NGO’s criticized authorities’ handling Shamy’s case including his detention without justification and the slow process of his trial, demanding medical assistance to be provided to Shamy due to his heath condition that deteriorated severely in the past few months.
“According to medical tests available with Shamy’s brother, Shamy suffers from extreme low blood pressure and sugar levels and a kidney function failure,” the NGOs stated in a press statement on May 14. It demanded Shamy’s transfer to a hospital according to the law organizing prisons and prisoners’ rights.
Rights organizations and Shamy’s family had been struggling to find out the exact location of his detention. Similar claims about other political detainees have been made by lawyers and activists and there have been suspicions about police detention of prisoners in unknown locations to their families.
The June 30 Fact-finding Committee claimed that some of its members went to visit Shamy in prison but Shamy was busy attending a court session renewing his detention, Youm7 reported Wednesday.
Following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, wide-scale arrests too place and the detention of journalists, students, and activists increased after the state passed a protest law requiring the obtaining of security’s authorization to organize protests.
However, as terrorist attacks shook the country in the past ten months and an increased targeting of police and military forces, the state has been extremely strict in an attempt to counter-terrorism, which resulted in thousands of arbitrary arrests and trials that increased serious human rights concerns.