The conditions in the police stations are terrible. Officials and criminals must be paid so they do not touch those detained for political crimes,” the relative of an Egyptian opposition woman tells EL MUNDO, who demands anonymity for fear of reprisals. Since she was arrested eight months ago, the young woman has shared with 20 other people a cell measuring three by three meters without a ventilation system or the most basic services. She has just been transferred to a women’s prison.
“Every month we have spent more than 20,000 Egyptian pounds 1,080 euros to protect her, provide her with food, or improve the cell. The air conditioner was broken and everyone fell ill in the middle of the pandemic. We paid to fix it. we changed the electrical installation and bought medicines for everyone, including the police, “he says. In the unsanitary and crowded dungeons of the Arab country, the families of the wealthiest prisoners often take on the task of refurbishing and fitting out the cells.
The Abdelfatah al Sisi regime has not stopped the repression that it inaugurated with the 2013 coup, not even amid the spread of the coronavirus. Small attempts of resistance have arisen since then. In September, a new wave of protests, small and decentralized in rural areas and the outskirts of Cairo, broke out coinciding with the first anniversary of the most massive demonstrations since the arrival at the Al Sisi palace, encouraged via the internet by Mohamed Ali, a former army contractor exiled in Barcelona.
Since then, at least a thousand people have been detained in 21 provinces of the country, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. Among those arrested are 72 minors. The actual figures are likely to be much higher, but unlike in 2019 the authorities have been more cautious about not making public information about the detainees, Mohamed Lofti, director of the organization recently awarded the prize, told this newspaper. Norwegian Rafto Human Rights Award that draws up the balance and provides legal assistance to the families of those arrested. There are still 1,400 detainees from last year’s protests when up to 4,400 arrests were recorded.He adds. At the end of November, three employees of the NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights were released after two weeks behind bars on alleged terrorism charges. Justice, however, keeps their accounts and assets frozen. The meeting of the members of the organization with European diplomats, including the Spanish ambassador, was the trigger for the arrest.
In its annual report, Human Rights Watch denounces that the Egyptian authorities intensified their repression against dissidents and citizens last year, even reaching virtual space in times of health crisis. Harassment has even reached relatives of exiled opponents. Since last August, the families of four dissidents have suffered raids on their homes, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and prolonged detentions without charge or trial in a calculated pattern that has been repeated. Members of my family have been arrested relentlessly for believing in the Arab Spring Sherif Mansour, an activist based in Washington, told this newspaper. Nine of his relatives have been detained in the past eight months in what human rights organizations call kidnappings to try to silence the vast Egyptian diaspora.
According to Amnesty International, at least two people were killed in the September crackdown, one of them in southern Luxor. In various towns in the Giza district, protesters clashed with officers and even set fire to police vehicles. According to the local press, two uniformed men were injured. The wave of protests lacked media coverage due to the daunting restrictions imposed by the authorities and was buried by a propaganda war through tweets. and videos among supporters and detractors of the president. The spark that reignited the popular protest is the state campaign to regularize illegal construction based on financial fines that pose an exorbitant burden for an impoverished population in the midst of an adverse economic situation. The situation is getting worse and it is no longer linked to corruption or the economy but to the right to housing, Ahmed Mefreh, director of the Committee for Justice, told this newspaper. The surveillance practices and arbitrary arrests only lead to exacerbate anger and tension and throw more innocent people in already saturated prisons that threaten to become epicenters of the epidemic, he predicts.
Far from reducing the pressure, the regime – which denies allegations of torture in prison and the 2,723 cases of forced disappearances documented in the last five years has kept up the pulse. 57 condemned to death have been executed since the beginning of October. At least 15 of the cases were linked to political trials. In total, 83 people marched to the scaffold throughout 2020. Human rights organizations have questioned the judicial process that led to their execution. The violations were not limited to his arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance, but extended during his incarceration, outlines the Committee for Justice, a Geneva-based organization.
Among those executed are militants of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political organization classified as a terrorist by local authorities but which operates legally in the West. “They were executed to demonstrate to the population what happens when someone goes down to the street and protests but their relatives already knew what was going to happen and had prepared for such an outcome,” slides a member of the brotherhood, decimated by the continuous persecution its once broad social base and the arrest in late August of its current leader, Mahmud Ezzat, who had been in hiding since 2013 in a wealthy housing estate on the outskirts of the capital. “Even today the Brotherhood is the only organized opposition group that can make a difference. We are paying the price of being one,” he concludes.