Umar Stambuli – Cii News | 10 Jumadal Ukhra 1436/31 March 2015
“I saw death. In order to be able to survive in prison, one must refrain from complaining, even if the cops put a stick up *****,” said a detained photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada Ziada at Abu Zaabal prison.
The imprisoned photojournalist accounted for a week of prisoners’ persecution from 18 to 25 March. Following a week of reported torture allegations of the prisoners of Abu Zaabal prison, he was able to give a new written letter to his mother who visited him.
The Daily News of Egypt obtained a copy of these letters where Ziada narrates his ordeal at the hands of prison officials and traumatic treatment of prisoners.
Ziada said that prison guards stormed their cells on the morning of 18 March to search the detainees, stole and destroyed their belongings, then sent prison to disciplinary confinements, in which they are usually severely beaten.
“The first student was punished because he protested against maltreatment. Then it was like the officers and conscripts declared war. They took another 12 students, and then it was just a random selection of one prisoner from each cell to scare off the rest,” Ziada said.
Staring at death
It was soon to become his turn, Ziada wrote. The police officers insulted him and beat him hard, sent him to disciplinary action for seven days, during which he started a second hunger strike. “Nobody cared, on the contrary they continued harassing and irritating me using their sticks,” Ziada wrote.
Ziada who has been in detention for over 450 days has been subject to abuse during his detention period. Last week, Ziada’s health condition deteriorated due to his abstinence from food and ill treatment. He suffocated and fainted.
The predicament of Ziada is not unique. His letter aptly bears testimony to the life of prisoners languishing in scary jails of Egypt. Many prisoners who ended up in these notorious prisons are locked up without charge while the majority are accused of terrorism.
A renowned South African citizen and Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdul Salam Jad Bassiouni finds himself incarcerated in Tora Prison in Cairo, known locally as “Scorpion Prison”. He was arrested by Egypt’s national security at Cairo airport in December last year.
Since then he has been detained without charge in the same prison complex where many high profile political figures, including the deposed President Mohamed Morsi are held. Sheikh Bassouini is accused of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last year UK-based newspaper The Telegraph, showed what it said was a filthy solitary confinement cell, sometimes occupied by more than three inmates at a time.
The footage, which was captured by an inmate at a maximum security prison in Egypt, showed overcrowded prison cells in which the personal belongings of prisoners was hanged on walls to save space on the ground.
The Telegraph’s “through the keyhole” tour showed a tiny kitchenette, in which prisoners prepare their food in an area adjacent to a squat-down toilet.
Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy who was imprisoned alongside colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed on charges of supporting the banned Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood spoke of his “hell” inside a maximum security Egyptian jail.
Fahmy and Egyptian Mohamed were released on bail in February after spending over 365 days in the Tora prison. Their imprisonment drew criticism from around the world.
Speaking to online news website The Intercept in February, Fahmy described prison which he and his colleagues were detained.
“The first month in jail was hell, because me and Baher were kept in the terrorist wing of the prison, and we were imprisoned exclusively alongside jihadists,” he said, describing the conditions.
Fahmy was held at first in solitary confinement, in a cell infested with insects and devoid of sunlight, which he described as “freezing cold.” The only time he was allowed out was for interrogations and when he was being transported.
Human rights abuses
A week ago, ten human rights groups condemned the “torture and collective” punishment in Egypt’s prisons and demanded investigations on violations in Abu Za’abal prison.
The violations targeted political prisoners as a number of undersigned groups received reports on the torture and the degrading treatment of detainees in Liman II of the Abu Za’abal prison complex.
According to the statement, on 19 March “masked formations of central security forces broke into the cells, attacked the prisoners with clubs and police dogs as well as used tear gas resulting in injuries and fainting among political prisoners”.
Fifteen prisoners were tortured in front of others for three hours, stripped from their clothes and transferred to solitary confinements, the statement said.
An investigation by Human Rights Watch early this year found that scores of Egyptians died in government custody in 2014, many of them packed into police stations in life-threatening conditions. Yet the authorities have taken no serious steps either to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate detainees’ deaths.
Some detainees appear to have died after being tortured or physically abused, but many appear to have died because they were held in severely overcrowded cells or did not receive adequate medical care for serious ailments.
“Egypt’s prisons and police stations are bursting at the seams with opposition supporters rounded up by the authorities,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “People are being held in grossly overcrowded and inhumane conditions, and the mounting death toll is the wholly predictable consequence.”
Cii News | 10 Jumadal Ukhra 1436/31 March 2015
Anti-apartheid resistance movement advocate and leader Sheikh Raed Salah has been sentenced by an Israeli court to 11 months jail term for what Zionists say is incitement to violence. The Sheikh is part of the war against holocaust-powered subjugation and apartheid Zionist rule, now under Binyamin Netanyahu, that continues to take thousands of lives and erode dignity of those deemed sub-human in the Middle East.
Salah, who has been given 45 days to appeal the court’s decision, is not appealing because doing that would be tantamount to giving recognition and credibility to the “illegitimacy of the Zionist occupation”, Sheikh Ighsaan Hendricks, president of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) told Sabahul Khair, lauding the Palestinian for his stance and deriding Israel’s legal system. “Sheikh Raed Salah is sentenced for a crime he committed. In fact it is the perpetrator of a crime, the crime of occupation, that begins to victimise Sheikh Raed Salah and the Palestinian people.”
The matter stalking the clergyman, and for which he will be imprisoned and handed an a separate suspended three-month jail sentence, relates to his 2007 speech, in which he urged subjugated Palestinians – languishing in bondage since the British facilitated their dispossession to create modern-day Israel in 1948 (a historic scenario that turned this group of Semites into a homeless and exiled people), to start a third intifada to end the occupation. The first two intifadas that ran from 1987 to 2005 failed to end apartheid. Likewise, the many United Nations resolutions achieved nothing. Pressure from the globe’s progressives, given world governments’ complicity, has not ended Israeli terror.
“It is important for our community to know that the hesitation by the occupation authorities and Israeli authorities to recognise the aspirations of the Palestinian people in having Al-Quds as the capital of the State of Palestine is precisely one of the great stumbling blocks in the future for the Palestinian people with the Israelis in terms of the negotiations,” the MJC leader told Cii listeners.
Hendricks noted that the Middle East-based Sheikh and activist, who has visited this part of the globe and Britain (where he languished after being arrested on the eve of delivering a speech), has been imprisoned a few more times before for slamming Israeli apartheid and holocaust, a project authored by Theodore Herzl in the 1800s.
“The aspiration of the occupation is to put him away for a long time,” said the Cape-based man of cloth, insisting that the Zionist movement’s ultimate purpose is to remove him from the public arena. “The community should not be surprised that every time they build up more and more and more legal matters against Sheikh Raed Salah with the ultimate purpose to keep him away for the long time.”
Hendricks noted that one of the reasons why Netanyahu’s administration is desperate to get rid or shut Salah is that the clergyman has consistently, even during his incarceration, mobilised the masses to, instead of submitting to perpetual subservience, free themselves from the bondage of apartheid and subjugation rule that has gone on for decades. He also drew parallels between what South Africans went through, that twin evil of brutality-powered subjugation and apartheid (a crime against humanity), and what is happening to ordinary Palestinians today. Also on that note, Hendricks appealed South Africans and the world community to join the Palestinian solidarity movement.