The conditions of prominent detainees continue to deteriorate inside prison, outraging social media users and political activists. Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Ziad and head of the Freedoms Committee at the Doctors’ Syndicate Taher Mokhtar were transferred Saturday to solitary confinement. Mohamed Mahmoud, known as the t-shirt detainee, was committed to a further 45 days in remand.
Tora prison administration transferred Shawkan on Saturday to solitary confinement and claimed that he smuggled a mobile phone into his cell.
According to Shawkan’s father, during the officer’s inspection on Friday, a mobile phone was found in Shawkan’s cell. He was summoned and then investigated and he denied the accusation. He was summoned again on Saturday morning.
His father said the police officer gave orders to send Shawkan to solitary confinement despite another prisoner admitting that the mobile phone belongs to him. Following the post of Shawkan’s story on social media, users denounced the prison’s treatment of him, and used the hashtag #Enkzo_Shawkan (rescue Shawkan).
Political activists expressed their concern for Shawkan’s wellbeing since he suffers Hepatitis C and requires medical care; his time in solitary confinement will be detrimental to his health.
Activists described the solitary confinement cell as a 1 sqm space; there is no running water, light, or windows and no blankets are provided despite the cold winter.
Shawkan has been in detention since 14 August 2013 after being arrested while covering the notorious dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in. He completed 900 days behind bars on 31 January. The photojournalist spent over 700 days in pre-trial detention, for which the maximum period is set at two years, according to the Penal Code.
The court also decided Sunday to renew the detention of Hussein for another 45 days although he spent more than 730 days in remand. Several local and international human rights organisations demanded the release of both pre-trial detention detainees.
On Saturday, the Cairo Criminal Court adjourned Shawkan’s session to 26 March under the pretext of limited room in the court to receive the large number of suspects.
Regarding the Mokhtar case, lawyer Mokhtar Mounier said that Mokhtar’s mother informed him that her son was transferred to solitary and assaulted after he asked why he was not transferred to a new cell like the other prisoners. The lawyer said that Mokhtar was returned to his cell after informing a police officer that he is a member of the Doctors Syndicate.
Mokhtar was arrested along with NGO worker Ahmed Hassan and student Hossam Hamad in their apartment downtown Cairo on 21 January during security raids that were conducted ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
According to a report from Amnesty International in 2015, over 41,000 people had been arrested, indicted, or sentenced as part of the government’s suppression of political opponents and activists since the 25 January Revolution in 2011. Human Rights Watch reported last week that 22,000 persons including activists and journalists have been arrested since July 2014 for stating their opposition to the government.