Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been tortured and humiliated and is now “in danger.” On the night of Oct. 10, the family of the activist and intellectual sounded the alarm about the conditions in which he has been held since Sept. 29, when he was arrested at the police station where he was being forced to spend his nights.
The day after he was arrested, Alaa was transferred to the notorious high security wing of the Tora prison, together with his lawyer Mohammed Baqer, who was inexplicably also arrested during an interrogation at which he was present.
Alaa arrived at the prison blindfolded, and then he was stripped naked and beaten for the first time. Then, he was subjected to what inmates there call the “welcome parade.” He was forced to walk through a corridor while being slapped, kicked and punched by guards.
After the beatings, again blindfolded, Alaa was led to an officer who told him that “this prison was made to break the likes of you,” then added, “I hate you,” and “I hate the Revolution.”
However, despite the prison guards threatening him to stay quiet, Alaa, as usual, decided to speak out, and he denounced all the violations to which he had been subjected during his interrogation with the prosecutor (who renewed the detention order for him and his lawyer), even though he was aware that he would soon be returned into the hands of his tormentors.
His sister Mona and his mother are fighting to get news about him, and they have so far managed to get to visit him once. On that occasion, through a glass partition, they could see that his captors had not yet carried out their threats to retaliate.
It is not the first time that Alaa has been thrown in prison. A symbol of the 2011 revolution, the activist was arrested under each of the presidents who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak.
It is the first time, however, that he has suffered such a level of physical abuse. Beatings and torture are the norm in Egyptian police stations and prisons, but up to now, the most important and most prominent detainees had been spared from such practices.
It seems that now, the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has decided to cross this red line as well. In a public statement, Alaa’s family wrote: “The fact that he is arrested is, in fact, not even about him — but it is to send a message to the wider country: do not imagine for a moment that you will be allowed to protest this regime.”
Alaa’s arrest is part of what has become the most extensive campaign of political arrests since al-Sisi took power. It all started on Sept. 20, when a number of angry protests against the al-Sisi regime erupted spontaneously in the streets of several Egyptian cities. Since then, 3,120 people have been arrested, including activists (both men and women), human rights lawyers and opposition party leaders, but mostly ordinary people taken randomly from the streets or from their homes. There are 111 minors among them, some of them just 11 years old, arrested while going to or from their school.
There are also many foreigners among the detained: Sudanese, Turks, Yemenis, but also Europeans. Two students of Arabic from the University of Edinburgh were detained for several days on charges of espionage. After this incident, the Scottish university asked all its students in Egypt to return home.
A US student has reportedly been blindfolded for about 15 hours during the four days he spent in a detention facility with 300 other people, all arrested in connection with the protests. His supposed crime was that he had saved a few articles about the events of the previous days on his smartphone.
On Friday, Francesca Borri, an Italian journalist, was detained for almost 24 hours on her arrival at Cairo airport. The Italian embassy immediately mobilized to follow her case. There was talk by the authorities that they were just conducting “passport checks,” but in the end, the journalist was refused access to the country.
“Detained for what I think and what I’m saying about the al-Sisi regime,” tweeted the freelance journalist. “But honestly, as I am one of the journalists who investigated the Regeni murder, being denied entry to Egypt is a badge of honor for me.”
Meanwhile, the European Union, of which Giulio Regeni was a citizen, is silent and “turn[ing] a blind eye” to the ongoing repression in Egypt, as EuromedRights, a network of human rights NGOs, said in a recent report.
There have been very few condemnations of the events (coming from just a handful of MEPs). The Italian Foreign Ministry is silent as the grave.