Viral footage of an interview with a renowned Egyptian musician about his imprisonment with the two sons of former President Hosni Mubarak sparked widespread controversy in Egypt, amid criticism of those privileged conditions and the inhumane prison conditions that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s opponents are exposed to.
Last Tuesday, Youssef Al-Husseini, a pro-regime TV presenter, hosted the renowned Egyptian musician Hani Mehanna on his talk show program broadcast on the “Nugoom FM” radio station.
During the episode, Hani Mehanna, who had been sentenced to 5 years in prison over fraud charges, recounted the conditions of his imprisonment with Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and a number of prominent figures of his regime in Tora prison, south of Cairo.
Mehanna said that he was among 16 people, including police officers, in a prison ward that could accommodate more than 3,000 people.
“I met Hisham Talaat Mostafa (an Egyptian businessman who was imprisoned for the murder of the Lebanese artist Suzan Tamim) and learned that he built a big mosque in the prison complex. I also met Ahmed Ezz (former secretary of organization of the ruling National Party during Mubarak’s era) who furnished the prison ward with a high-level gym and SPA, with the most recent equipment, in addition to Ping-Pong and billiard tables.”
The Egyptian musician said that when he entered prison, “Alaa Mubarak brought me a TV set, and Gamal brought me a refrigerator … these things that they had are important.”
Hani Mehanna also said that they used to play football in prison, explaining: “We used to play football together … and Habib Al-Adly (former Minister of Interior under Mubarak) was sometimes the referee of the matches.”
Mubarak’s two sons were imprisoned pending many cases, after the 2011 January 25 Revolution that removed their father from power, but later obtained acquittals in a number of them.
The events of that Mehanna narrated took place in 2014, when he spent 6 months in prison, after a five-year prison sentence on charges of seizing public money, according to a sentence issued on October 22 of the same year.
Reports of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have criticized the inhumane conditions of Egyptian prisons, where Sisi’s political opponents are detained.
Meanwhile, Mehanna’s statements went viral over the past days and infuriated social media activists.
Tweeters likened these prison conditions provided to Mubarak’s sons and Mubarak’s regime figures to “5-star hotels”.
Many activists expressed their dissatisfaction with the comments stated in Hani Mehanna’s interview regarding the prison conditions , contrary to the inhumane prison conditions that the regime opponents are exposed to.
Nada Mostafa on Twitter said: “Hany Mehanna, Gamal Mubarak, Alaa Mubarak, Habib Al-Adly, Ahmed Ezz, and another nine people were sitting in a ward designated for lodging 3,000 prisoners. In addition, they had TVs, fridges, gyms, and jacuzzies. The purpose of these leaked comments, of course, is to send a message that ordinary Egyptians are slaves, and that their masters (Mubarak’s sons and regime figures) were never humiliated.
Comparing those conditions to the inhumane conditions of Sisi’s overcrowded prisons where he keeps his political opponents since the military coup that he led in 2013 against the democratically elected president, some described the prison conditions when Mubarak regime’s prominent figures were there, saying that, “It was a journey, not a prison”.