Urgent Action Update: ACTVIST AND LAWYER HELD IN CRUEL CONDITIONS (Egypt: UA 132.19)
May 21, 2021
Human rights lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah have been arbitrarily detained for 20 months without trial over unfounded terrorism-related accusations. They are held in a maximum-security prison in inhumane conditions and subjected to discriminatory and punitive treatment.
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Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Madinat al-Rehab – Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2577 4716
Email: [email protected]
I am writing to raise my concerns about the ongoing arbitrary detention of lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who have been in pre-trial detention over unfounded terrorist-related accusations since October 1, 2019, solely for their peaceful exercise of human rights. They are held in inhumane conditions at the Tora Maximum Security 2 Prison, in Cairo. From October 1, 2019 to May 9, 2021, Mohamed el-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah shared a small poorly ventilated cell of 3.5m x 5m with two other prisoners. Prison authorities have denied them beds and mattresses; they have been sleeping on the floor on rough blankets. Unlike other prisoners, they are prohibited from exercising in the prison yard and are not allowed to use the prison library nor to receive books or newspapers from outside prison at their own expense. The prison authorities have also been denying them adequate clothing, radios, watches, access to hot water and any personal belongings, including family photos. On May 11, 2021, during a visit, Mohamed el-Baqer informed his wife that he had been transferred to another cell with similar conditions. He said that as a result of limited movement and poor prison conditions, he developed pain in his joints and muscles.
The families of Mohamed el-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah have lodged official complaints about their treatment in prison, including their exclusion from the COVID-19 vaccine rollout amid concerns that detainees are being transferred from prisons to courts without personal protective equipment (PPE) and held in cramped unhygienic conditions. On May 10, 2021, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent human rights organization, filed a lawsuit before the State Council, an administrative court with jurisdiction over complaints regarding state bodies’ action or inaction, against the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of prisons in Egypt, for their failure to include prisoners in national vaccine plans. The organization is calling for the authorities to enable prisoners to register for the vaccine, and to either transfer prisoners to designated medical facilities or to allocate suitable facilities inside prisons for vaccination. A similar lawsuit was also filed by Alaa Abdel Fattah’s lawyer. On May 18, 2021, authorities announced the vaccination of 5,000 older or chronically ill prisoners and 1,400 medical staff and other prison workers. No additional details have been provided.
I urge you to release Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer immediately and unconditionally and drop all charges against them as they are detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Pending their release, I call on you to ensure they have access to adequate health care, including COVID-19 vaccines, and that they are held in conditions meeting international standards including being granted adequate bedding and outdoor exercise time; and protected from torture and other ill-treatment.