A number of prominent public figures, activists, Human rights advocates and journalists worldwide have joined the ‘Ifrag’ campaign for the release of the elderly and patients in Egypt’s prisons, especially amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the poor conditions of over-crowded Egyptian prisons.
François Burgat, a political scientist and arabist, Emeritus Senior Research Fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)also joined the Ifrag (release) campaign, calling for the release of political detainees in Egypt’s prisons. Burgat said “60,000 political prisoners are rotting in Egyptian prisons. Some are very very aging, others are children. Some have been there for seven years, others arrived yesterday or the day before, since imprisonments have never paused. A vast majority have been locked up on the basis of inexistent allegations.”
Mr. Burgat said amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, prisoners in Egypt are deprived of the most basic treatments, giving former President Morsi “who died because he was not supplied with his treatment against diabetes and hypertension” as an example for healthcare negligence political prisoners are subjected to. Mr. Burgat called on the European Union, France in particular, and the new US administration to practice pressure on Egyptian authorities to release political prisoners, especially the elderly and patients.
“I know several of them but this is not the reason why I accepted to pass on this call. I have accepted because I am utterly convinced that if the European Union, France of course and the new US administration were to act a little bit more efficiently than what they’ve done so far, we would maintain ties with millions of people in the world who have observed and recorded our silence, our cowardice,” adding “If they were intervening a little bit more efficiently to inflect their clients’ behavior I believe that they would save lives but also their honor as well as ours.”
Also, the French human rights defender Albane de Rochebrune called on the European Union to put pressure on the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to release thousands of political prisoners. De Rochebrune accused the Egyptian regime of committing multiple crimes against oppositionists and continuing to violate human rights in the country. In a video published on Twitter, she expressed solidarity with the “Ifrag” campaign launched by the Batel movement last month, to demand the release of elderly and sick detainees.
Francesca Borri, an Italian journalist and war reporter, called for for the release of political detainees in Egyptian prisons, joining the Ifrag campaign. In a video released by the campaign, Ms. Borri appealed to Egyptian authorities, as well Italian and European authorities “because of the influence they can have on Egypt, not just because of their moral influence” to release the elderly and patients in prisons.
“In the prisons of Egypt there are more than 7,000 detainees over 60 years old, and many of them are political prisoners. About 1,500 are in extremely poor health. And time has come to release them,” she said, adding, “In 2020, seventy-three detainees died, and since 2013, one thousand and two hundreds. It’s too much. No security reason justifies their detention. They are old. They are not criminals. They are not dangerous.”
Ms. Borri said those elderly and extremely ill prisoners are more vulnerable than ever amid the Covid-19 outbreak, holding the Egyptian government responsible for negligence of the rights of prisoners, especially healthcare, noting that the state is responsible for the well-being of detainees “And yet many of them get no adequate health care, no adequate food.
They live in cold, damp, filthy, crowded cells, with no light, sometimes no electricity,” Ms. Borri said, adding, “They don’t deserve to spend in this way the few time ahead of them. Their liberation would be a powerful message from the Egyptian authorities; that humanity is beyond politics.”
David Hearst, the editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye, said Egyptian authorities routinely deprived the prisoners from family visits for months, while they are rarely allowed to write and receive letters or make phone calls.
“In Egyptian jails, tourney is at its worst, there are notorious for being overcrowded, dirty and unhygienic. Much of work goes on behind these closed doors by the state in extreme secrecy,” Mr. Hearst said adding “Egyptian government has never released figures about these prisons’ populations or its’ capacity nor the death in custody. A report from the national council of human rights, in May 2015 said that the police stations were 300% over capacity and prisons are 160% over capacity.”
David Hearst said people know that guards routinely punish prisoners by confiscating soap, tooth brushes, tooth baste and toilet paper, while toilets lack water prompting prisoners to use water in buckets for lack of running water, in addition to cells’ lack of proper ventilation and sunshine.
“Egyptian authorities do not allow any independent oversight of places of detention in the country and still refuse to allow organizations like Red Crescent or Red Cross in for independent inspection,” he said, adding, “Egypt’s elderly in prison are particularly vulnerable, letting them rot and die serves no security’s purpose. It’s a policy-based purulence breathing fear among the population.”
Mr. Hearst addressed Egyptian authorities, saying, “One day, you will be held accountable for what you are doing to innocent and vulnerable people; you better stop this abuse now while you’re still able.” He called on the administration of Joe Biden to be true to American values, not just at home but abroad. “You have the levers to force Egypt to open up these prisons to international inspection and to release the elderly, He said.
Also, Former Tunisian President Dr. Moncef Marzouki, joined the Ifrag campaign to release political prisoners in Egypt’s prisons. In a video released by the campaign.
“In my human rights capacity as a former president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights and the Arab Committee for Human Rights as well as the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Child in Africa – In this capacity only I call on the Egyptian authorities and join all the rights defenders worldwide to demand the release of political prisoners, regardless of all political considerations,” Dr. Marzouki said.
“Today, there is a pandemic ravaging prisons, COVID-19, especially in light of the severe over-crowdedness and the miserable situation of Egyptian prisons, circumstances that are tantamount to a death sentence for people against whom no fair judicial ruling has been issued,” he added
Dr. Marzouki said that out of humanity and also as a precaution for the future the Egyptian authorities should release all political prisoners. Dr. Marzouki confirmed that “The family of martyr President Mohamed Morsi has paid a heavy price, where one of its sons, who is at the same time the family’s lawyer, Osama Mohamed Morsi, is also at risk of dying from the Coronavirus in prison. “Therefore, for all of these reasons, including political and humanitarian reasons, and also to preserve the dignity of those who are now in office in Egypt, I demand the release of all political prisoners,” he added.
Anas Takriti, the CEO and Founder of the London-based Cordoba Foundation, Also joined the Ifrag campaign, releasing a video confirming his stance in solidarity with political prisoners in Egyptian prisons.
“Ten years ago, an iconic events happened in Egypt on the 25th of January. Millions of Egyptians hit the streets peacefully, unarmed, facing a regime that had been sitting strong, uncontested on their chests for decades long,. They came out demanding their freedom and liberties, their human rights, calling for democracy. And that event not only shook Egypt, but shook also the entire region, as well as the entire world and inspired nations all across the world to demand their collective humanity as well, Mr. Takriti said.
“But today, the world sits virtually silently as tens of thousands of normal, ordinary citizens linger in prisons held by the military regime that crushed that fledgling democracy in 2013. Out of those, thousands are in need of desperate and urgent medical care and health attention,” he added.
Mr. Takriti said that many prisoners are old, unable, disabled that are in need of care. “Yet they endure the most insufferable conditions within those horrid prisons.” He said that it is upon the entire world to join this international appeal today, Ifrag campaign, in order to call upon leaders of the international community, most of whom claim to be the bastions of democracy, the upholders, the freedoms and liberties who celebrate peoples’ peaceful call to human rights and to democracy – “to exert pressure on the Egyptian regime in order to release those who needn’t be imprisoned, those who need medical care need to get that medical care. Those who are enduring inhumane conditions need to be allowed to exist as human beings,” he said
“Unless we do so, we would have failed democracy and human rights all over again, and we simply cannot afford to do so,” Mr. Takriti concluded.
Local and international human rights organizations revealed that tens of thousands of political opponents are detained in Egyptian prisons, with hundreds dying as a result of medical neglect
The Batel campaign which is now launching ‘Ifrag’ was primarily launched in March 2018 against the constitutional amendments made by Al-Sisi, which granted him the right to remain in power until 2030.
On 29 December, Batel called for the immediate release of elderly prisoners in Egyptian jails.
The campaign group has called for human rights organizations to highlight the harsh conditions endured by elderly and sick detainees.