A delegation from the state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) visited Al-Aqrab Prison Wednesday, in response to several complaints by the families of prisoners regarding unacceptable conditions in detention.
According to NCHR member Hafez Abu Seada, it took authorities nearly one month to eventually respond to their demand and allow them to visit the prison. In a Thursday report, the NCHR said it examined the reported cases of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners Essam Sultan, Khairat El-Shater and Magdy Korkor.
The prison is one with the highest security levels, and many of those facing terrorism charges are held in Al-Aqrab, including political Islamists. The NCHR highlighted the refusal of several Brotherhood supporters to meet the delegation, in objection to their “unfair procedures”.
A prisoner complained that visits have been frequently cancelled by prison authorities for up to one year, and that when allowed, they do not exceed 10 minutes, from behind a glass wall. On the other hand, the NCHR’s report provided a copy of a signing sheet showing regular visits to the imprisoned claimant, by his wife, children and lawyer.
There have also been testimonies from detainees’ relatives regarding basic goods being banned from entrance, including food. Prisoners are also allegedly banned from leaving their cells at all during the day.
Others problems were related to the prevention of medicine from entering the prison or failure to provide medical care to prisoners. The NCHR’s delegation however contradicted the claims in several points. According to Sallah Sallam of the council, the medical conditions and files of six reported prisoners were examined.
“We assure you that El-Shater is in good health and that he has received proper assistance inside and outside jail, and his treatment has been subsidised by prison authorities for up to EGP 12,000,” he said in a Thursday press conference.
The report pointed that the heat wave was challenging for the safety of prisoners, and that the prison authority said it was working on solving it.
The NCHR has conducted a series of prison visits recently. The council has often been criticised for being biased towards authorities, especially in their report on the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adweya sit-in.
On the other hand, other NGOs have no access to jails and do not communicate with prisoners, which makes it hard to document violations in detention places.