Two men died Tuesday night inside the detention room of the Matariya Police Station, with the families of the deceased accusing the police of torture.
The Ministry of Interior told Daily News Egypt that one of the deaths occurred due to “a circulatory collapse”. The ministry did not provide further information regarding the incident or the cause of death.
One of the dead prisoners is Emad Ahmed El-Attar, who was arrested on 26 January during protests in Matariya. His cousin Ahmed told Daily News Egypt that El-Attar was severely tortured by police agents inside the police station.
“He was denied any medical care for a month, and was beaten and thrown inside the bathroom of the police station,” his cousin said. “Sometimes, his family had to bribe the guards to smuggle food or medication to him. For the last 15 days, he witnessed terrible treatment and died.”
When Ahmed was contacted, he was standing in front of the morgue of Zenhom to receive the body of his relative. “His body was full of blue marks showing signs of beatings and torture,” he said.
He added that El-Attar was 44-years-old, and is survived by a wife and a daughter.
A medical source, who requested anonymity, told Daily News Egypt that official reports usually mention that the “cause of death is failure in the blood circulation of the body”. However, the source added that in many cases official reports fail to mention the “underlying cause of death”, which can be injuries to chest, drowning, and diabetes.
The other victim is a lawyer called Kareem Hamdy, who was arrested from his house on 22 February, his aunt said. He was charged with participating in protests affiliated with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood.
His aunt added that Hamdy was investigated by the prosecution and reported he was beaten by officers in the police station of Matariya. “When he returned to the police station, the officers retaliated and violently tortured him to death,” she relayed.
“We refused to sign the preliminary medical report which claims the death was due to suicide and not torture,” Hamdy’s relative said. He was supposed to have had another investigation session in front of the prosecution.
The body of Hamdy was transferred from the police station to the Matariya hospital to the Zeinhom morgue.
Matariya police station has been controversially known in the political scene as the “slaughter house”, in reference to the abundance of torture cases against detainees who are pending investigations.
The district of Matariya has been witnessing intense confrontations between anti-government protesters and security forces. The area, in north-eastern Cairo, has been dubbed by some residents as the “land of fear”. It has also become the centre of an increased security clampdown following days of clashes and deaths during demonstrations marking the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
The Lawyers Syndicate has condemned the incident, adding that the syndicate will file a report to the General Prosecution against those responsible of killing Hamdy.
Last December, a prisoner by the name of Abdel Rahman Kamel died in Al-Azouly military prison. The family of Kamel, who was a teaching assistant in the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, accused prison officials of torturing him to death.
Similarly, a prisoner died in Menufiya last November due to inadequate healthcare in prison, according to his lawyer. The deceased, a doctor and head of the dermatology department of Ain Shams University named Tarek Al-Ghandour, suffered from liver dysfunction and was imprisoned in Abou Zaabal and then Wadi El-Natrun prisons. The incident was condemned by the Human Rights Watch.
In January 2014, a government employee also reportedly died as a result of violations by security members of the police station.
At least 52 individuals have died inside detention centres across Cairo and Giza since January 2014, according to the official numbers from the Forensic Medicine Authority. A further 80 individuals have died whilst in detention across Egyptian cities between July 2013 and January 2014, according to WikiThawra, an independent observatory that documents fatalities in prisons.
Since the military ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, thousands of anti-government protesters have been jailed, with over 800 sent to military tribunals, according to human rights organisations.
Islamist students, activists and party members suffered a heavy crackdown following Morsi’s ouster.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) further released a report in January, strongly criticising the Egyptian authorities for failing to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate reported detainees’ deaths as a result of physical torture inside prisons.