CAIRO: Attorney General Hisham Barakat approved Sunday a request by the state-run National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to visit Tora Prison, following the controversial case of Abdullah el-Shamy and Mohamed Sultan.
Shamy, a journalist at Al Jazeera and Sultan, the son of former Muslim Brotherhood supporter and former Secretary General of the Azhar Islamic Research Center Salah Sultan have been on a hunger strike for months, in objection to their arrests and detention in August, and against alleged abuse inside Tora Prison.
In a press release issued Sunday, the NCHR said there needs to be a solution for detainees pending investigations or awaiting court verdicts, by either speeding up their trial or temporarily releasing them.
“After obtaining permission from the prosecution authorities, we are currently coordinating with the Ministry of Interior and await their authorization to conduct the visit,” NCHR member George Ishaaq added in a press statement Sunday.
But it remains unclear if this initiative was ever taken by the council, or if its action was pressured by public outrage. Activists from local and international human rights organizations have criticized Egyptian authorities for months in support of Shamy and Sultan.
“Whenever activists are capable of getting public attention on some cases, the NCHR is asked to investigate, but their action is slow and they usually end up unable to prove any violation or traces of torture,” Samia Jaheen, a member of the Freedom for the Brave movement told The Cairo Post while commenting on another case of jail torture Saturday.
Jaheen was referring to the infamous case of activists Khaled el-Sayed and Nagy Kamel, whose case triggered fury against the police, and brought back memories of the systematic torture practices that made people take to the streets against former President Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 25, 2011.
On Feb. 14, the NCHR visited Sayed and Kamel, and then concluded that there was no systematic torture at Tora Prison or that any prisoners complained of it. On several occasions, the council visited prisons and did not come up with “plausible” conclusions for many human rights advocates.
Sayed and Kamel were arrested during the third commemoration of the January 25 Revolution and released in March. Kamel appeared in a video after his release, and said police beat them and tortured them inside the Azbakeya police station.
Testimonies on alleged police torture have increased since, and so have citizens’ reactions because these accounts have been widely circulated on the Internet despite receiving little print or television coverage. Activists and civil rights groups have been organizing rallies and protests in support of the detainees.
In the case of Shamy, Ayda Seif al-Dawla, a 60-year-old human rights activist, psychology professor and founder of Al-Nadeem Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence announced she was going on a hunger strike last week in support of Shamy and Sultan.
Hisham Mubarak Law Center contacted prosecution authorities, starting with Barakat and district attorneys to notify them of Dawla’s hunger strike and requested medical assistance to save her life, in addition to the life of Shamy’s wife Gehad Khaled, who has been on strike for 40 days, the center stated in an official statement released May 28.
Dawla was photographed holding a poster with the names of Shamy and Sultan on it during a rally organized at the Press Syndicate Sunday to support the detainees. A press conference about Shamy and Sultan is to be held tomorrow.
Activist Laila Soueif, mother of previously detained activists Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mona Seif, is also on a hunger strike, as pressure groups announced their support for the two women.
“Shamy was only doing his job, it is not his fault he was covering the incidents at Rabaa al-Adaweya,” Seif said during Sunday’s rally, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in violently dispersed by security forces last August.
Shamy’s next court date is scheduled for June 3.