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Gehad el-Haddad’s eyewitness account of Aqrab Prison atrocities


June 3, 2016
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A testimony given by Gehad el-Haddad’s wife, through Gehad’s Mother, about the lawlessness and violations suffered by political prisoners at Aqrab Prison.

Gehad el-Haddad’s wife paid him a visit in Aqrab cemetery (i.e. Aqrab Prison) after we pleaded with him to come out for a visit. He was on a strike and did not come out in the previous visit. We were anxious to know how he was, especially after the transfer of another inmate to the prison hospital.

Gehad’s wife was appalled at his appearance, with extra-long hair and a beard that flowed down to his chest, and worrisome dark circles around his eyes. Prison management officials refused to allow him any shaving tools, and insisted he can only get his hair cut or beard trimmed by a criminal inmate who always used the same razor on all inmates (political prisoners and criminals), exposing them all to a number of infectious diseases, the least of which is the hepatitis C virus – as already happened to Dr Essam El-Erian.

Aqrab Prison management officials apply maximum pressure on hunger strikers, harassing them in every way possible. They banned all salt for them, and also prevented them from buying or receiving in visits any fluids, like milk or juice. A striker has only water to drink.

The average person, when healthy, in mild weather, can continue a hunger strike (drinking only water) for a period of 3-4 weeks. However, if he was in poor health, suffering from severe anaemia, intestinal parasites or a skin rash, in a dark cell without a window, where he can find neither fresh air nor sunshine, the walls are covered with green mould, and the heat unbearable, as is the case in Aqrab Prison cells, this poor guy will not be able to survive for three weeks.

It is known that a hunger-striker needs a daily amount of salt (at least a quarter of a spoon), especially in hot weather, as is the case in this Egyptian Guantanamo’s cells. But, here, officials have banned all salt for hunger strikers.

Moreover, visiting families are not allowed to bring in fruits, vegetables, any sweets or sugars. Inmates are not allowed to buy those from inside the prison, either. In other words, all healthy nutritious foods which could provide inmates with a minimum of vitamins and minerals are banned in the whole prison: no-one should sell them, have them in prison meals, or receive them in visits, since March 2015 (16 months ago), just after the appointment of the current Interior Minister.

These actions have only one meaning: coup authorities are deliberately set out to extra-judicially kill hunger strikers. Aqrab Prison administration uses death as punishment for striking political prisoners. Either they call off their strike or they die.

On May 3, a second wave of hunger-strikes began in Aqrab. My son Gehad restarted his strike on May 17, along with his friend Mahmoud Barbary and other political prisoners. Ten days later, Barbary reached the stage of muscle spasm; and his blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels. Currently, he is unconscious. The same happened to other hunger-strikers, including Sheikh Mustafa Hamza, who began his hunger-strike on May 3.

The main reason for the strike is to save prisoners from starvation and disease after prison administration officials took away their essential medicines and reduced food in meals until it no longer was sufficient to sustain any adult person. They also banned all exercise and closed cell-door windows, the tiny ones in cell doors which are the only openings in their isolated graves.

He strikes – to survive. He remembers the starvation which reached its peak in last Ramadan: just one spoon of rice, with nothing else to eat but a tiny handful of rotten beans, which could be counted on the fingers of one hand, from which he had to wash off the mould before eating them.

He recalls how electricity in the cells was cut off from the afternoon, and he cannot see his hand in the darkness of the cell. He remembers 24-hour confinement in the cells, isolated from the whole world, where he cannot hear or see anything, especially after the cell-door windows were shuttered.

He remembers how his essential medication was snatched away as officers took all his personal belongings from the cells, or his medication finishing as authorities banned visits for 4 consecutive months. He remembers all that.. and knows that he cannot endure or survive it today after the deterioration of his health condition.

If forcing a hunger-striker to eat is a crime, what do we call the extreme brutality of Aqrab Prison administration in its treatment of strikers?

This is a plea to humanitarian and human rights organisations, regarding regime atrocities against our loved ones in Aqrab Prison. My son came out to see us in the last visit because we pleaded with him to. Aqrab officials agreed they would allow him a full half-hour visit, behind a glass barrier, of course (whereas by law he is entitled to full one-hour visits without glass partitions). What happened? They cut off the electricity to the visiting room, so the phone headsets went dead. Without those, we could not hear each other at all through the glass barrier. They have no principles, no morals, no honour, and no mercy.

In Aqrab, there is nothing but murder, slow and painful death. You starve or die from the cold in the winter, or the heat in the summer, or painfully perish by a poisonous meal contaminated by officers after your family pay dearly and suffer for so long to bring it to you. Or, of course, you die of a disease, after your medication is taken away or runs out, or die from heart-felt anguish of severe insults, provocation, arrogance of psychopathic officers, from extreme ill-treatment by ruthless wardens, or under torture and cracking bones because you dared to object.

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