CAIRO: A number of detainees arrested outside the Ithadeya palace may have been politically targeted, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a Monday statement.
“The EIPR is worried that the reason behind detaining Yara [Sallam, an EIPR member] is her job in the field of human rights; her cousin who was arrested in the same incident was released without any charges,” read the statement.
Security forces arrested 24 demonstrators outside Ithadeya Palace June 21as they demanded the annulment of the controversial protest law which was widely criticized as being originally promulgated to curb the freedom of expression and ban protests.
The statement was further surprised with the rapid procedures of referring the 24 defendants to trial, only after four days of their arrest, over charges unlicensed protest which endangered public safety, damaging public installations, showing of force and gathering.
In the first hearing, the court adjourned the case to Sept. 13; the step was “shocking” to human rights organizations, which were concerned about the justice of the trial’s procedures, according to the statement.
EIPR said the charges against the protesters are “flimsy” and the judge’s refusal to release the protesters is a “punitive action..there is not anything in the case justifies extending their detention for three months.”
Yara Sallam, one of those arrested outside Ithadeya, heads the Transitional Justice file in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“What started my interest in human rights is that since I was almost 15 years old I volunteered in an organization that works on child rights called Annossour Al-Saghira [small eagles,]” said Sallam in a 2013 interview.
“My work in human rights before the revolution was within a mental frame of knowing that nothing will change and that Mubarak will remain as a president and that Gamal Mubarak will succeed him,” she added.
Sallam launched the Women Human Rights Defenders Program at Nazra for Feminist Studies, and said she saw “the need to provide legal, medical and psychological support to the women who were claiming their space in the public space” after the January 25 Revolution. Due to her work in the field of human rights, she earned the Northern African HRD Shield 2013
Sallam also directly helped the detainees who were incarcerated during Council of Minister clashes in 2011, according to an article about Sallam on The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy June 28.
“When I visited Sanaa [in jail], she alleviated my pain [for being away from her] with a small letter and few words,” said Sanaa’s elder sister Mona Seif, the prominent activist on her blog on June 28.
She is the youngest sister of two other well-know activists: Mona Seif and Alaa Abdel Fatah, who is currently imprisoned over charges including violated the protest law outside the Shura Council.
Although her family has a long background in political activism, Sanaa, 20, said that she refrained to take the same path of her family and preferred not to participate in demonstrations, according to a 2011 interview.
Sanaa was 17 when she participated in the January 25 Revolution, where she co-founded with her friends an independent newspaper to document events. She is now a member of “No for Military Trials for Civilians,” co-founded by her sister Mona.
“Sanaa may give you the impression that she is fragile, weak and cannot manage her problems, but she can suddenly surprise you with taking care of the whole problem,” added her Mona on her blog.
Mona described Sanaa as being steadfast and cheerful though under detention, where she called her the “Secret weapon” in the face of all prisons’ fences.
Concerns about prison conditions
Ongoing detentions following the events of June 30 have raised the attention of domestic as well as international human rights groups about the conditions of the prisons in Egypt.
Detainees at women’s prisons as well have reported torture and harsh abuse. Lawyer Ammar Motawei told The Cairo Post that his sister was among students detained at Al-Azhar University, and that she was arrested while visiting her detained colleague in court.
“Female detainees at two political prisoner wards were brutally abused by the jailer after they protested her slapping their professor, who is also among the detainees,” Motawei said.
Sara Khaled, a Faculty of Dentistry student who was arrested five months ago due to a pin that carries the Rabaa sign, appeared at court with pale face, screaming, “I am dying, I am dying, and I cannot eat, drink or eat. The criminal defendants take my food and stuff; they make me sleep in the bathroom and beat me every day,” reported the Freedom for The Brave Campaign on its Facebook page.
The Ministry of Interior has routinely denied any pattern of political targeting or abuse within its detention centers and prisons.
Assistant Interior Minister for media and Public Relations Abdel Fatah Othman said Tuesday evening in an interview with ONTV “the prisons in Egypt have become a kind of hotel.”