Detained photojournalist alleges assault after starting hunger strike
Photojournalist Mahmoud Nasr - Photo courtesy of Mahmoud Nasr twitter account

CAIRO: A detained photojournalist was reported to have been assaulted at police custody after he announced his hunger strike in solidarity with other detainees, according to interviews conducted by The Cairo Post Wednesday.

Detainees’ advocacy pages on Facebook posted Tuesday about the incident of abuse of photojournalist Mahmoud Nasr at a police station in Alexandria.

The assaults were confirmed by his lawyer and his family after visiting him in Atareen police station, where he was held for almost a month.

Nasr, a photojournalist at private newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, was arrested Aug. 28 after he had been sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison over charges that date back to the era of former President Mohamed Morsi.

Nasr’s lawyer Mohamed Ramadan told The Cairo Post the charges were “randomly” filed against Nasr, as he was in a mission in Ismailia when he was arrested after a computer detected him as being accused in an old case.

Tuesday, Nasr announced he would join the mass campaign of the “Empty Stomach Battle” that demands the release of detained activists and the annulment of the 2013 protest law. Following his decision, Nasr was subjected to physical and verbal assault by a Lieutenant at Atareen police station in Alexandria, according to his friend Mohamed Nabil.

Nasr told his family about his assaults when they visited him at the police station on the same day.

“[Nasr] told us about the officer who beat him by name and said that the abuse took place few hours before [his family’s visit],” Nabil said, adding that he had accompanied Nasr’s family in the visit.

Nabil told The Cairo Post that although there was a small window through which they would see Nasr “we could see signs of assaults and bruises on his face and clotted blood on his nose.”

His lawyer Ramadan was informed in a Wednesday visit to Nasr, meant to verify the incident, that “some police officers pressured him to not escalate the case to the prosecution.” However, Ramadan said “we will wait for the results of the administrative investigation into the incident before taking any legal action.”

The case began when Nasr was covering a protest that took place at the railway station in Alexandria Jan. 16, 2013 when a number of youth and families gathered to condemn the government’s incompetence a day following a huge train crash that killed 19 and injured hundreds.

On that day, security forces attacked protesters and detained them in a room at the station, according to Nabil. “Nasr was among the detainees who were then released and later on claimed to be at large,” Nabil added.

In his case, Nasr and nine others were accused of disrupting public utility, assaulting security forces, using violence and gathering. “Neither Nasr nor the others were aware of their charges prior their arrest and that their verdict that was issued Aug. 4, 2014,” continued Nabil.

Ramadan said no police reports were filed at the station when they were first detained. “We demanded re-trial procedures to be taken in Nasr’s case, because he was randomly arrested while doing his job.”

Torture in Egyptian law

Human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the “loose” definition of torture in Egyptian law and considered it as “inconsistent” with the U.N. convention against torture which Egypt ratified.

Article 126 in the penal code is considered to lack details of all types of torture specified in the U.N. convention, and does not include a mention of psychological effects of the torture on the victim.

Due to the uphill battle to prove torture committed by police officers, a number of alleged victims seek to file compensation cases instead of criminal cases against officers.

The Arab Penal Reform Organization filed 11 misdemeanor lawsuits and 22 warnings against Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in June demanding his removal from office for failure to implement court rulings to pay compensation worth 1.56 million EGP ($218,000) in damages following civil suits for torture.

Torture in Egyptian prisons is officially denied as a systematic practice; however the Ministry of Interior has often settled out of court with alleged victims, without admitting culpability.

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