Egypt: More victims falling.. former MP dies in Scorpion prison

Dr. Hamdi Hassan, a former Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament who was elected three times between 2000 and 2012, has died in his cell according to his son.

Hamdi Hassan died on Thursday at the age of 65 in the notorious Al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison, after eight years in detention.

Dr. Hassan’s son, Baraa, wrote on Twitter that his father’s family was allowed access to Muslim funeral rites by the authorities with only six people present amidst extreme security measures.

“Allah released you, my father,” his son Baraa tweeted, adding: “We hope that Allah will accept you a martyr, my father, as you had been chosen by Him after eight years in prisons of the oppressors.”

According to a post by the El-Shehab human rights organization that was released on its official Facebook page, Hassan was subjected to “deliberate medical negligence.” The group described Hassan as “a victim of systematic killings.”

The death of former Egyptian MP Hamdy Hassan inside his prison cell has caused a widescale social media campaign against the Egyptian regime led by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Arabi21 reported on Friday.

Activists from inside and outside Egypt criticized Al-Sisi’s regime and accused it of adopting a policy of “deliberate medical negligence” for his political opponents incarcerated in his jails across the country.

Hassan’s son, Baraa, said the family had been barred from visiting him for the past five years.

“They informed us yesterday about his death inside his cell in Scorpion prison,” Baraa said. “They banned a funeral service for him, and only allowed six people to attend his burial.”

Another activist called Abrar tweeted saying:

Although Hassan’s family did not announce the cause of his death, but Scorpion prison is notorious for causing “slow deaths” among its inmates, most of whom are classified as political prisoners, according to local and international rights groups.

Hassan served three terms in Parliament between 2000 and 2012 – primarily during the era of the late Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

Haitham Abu Khalil, a human rights advocate whose brother died in the same prison last year due to medical negligence, said Hassan’s death was part of “an evil policy of getting rid of political opponents. 

“In the Scorpion prison and other cemeteries falsely called detention centers, the military has killed 119 political prisoners slowly since January 2020 until today.”

Dr. Hassan was the spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian bloc between 2005 and 2010, which included 88 MPs. He was detained on 19 August, following Al-Sisi’s coup against the first freely-elected Egyptian president, the late Mohamed Morsi.

Hassan’s son, Baraa, said that the Egyptian regime had prevented the family from visiting Hassan in prison for the five years before his death, and allowed only six people to take part in his funeral, which was arranged under strict security measures.

In a report last year, Human Rights Watch said: “Because of the absence of sufficient natural light to work or read, the lack of humane sleeping and sanitation arrangements, and climate consideration, as well as inadequate floor space, artificial lighting and proper ventilation, the Scorpion Prison inherently violates the basic rights of prisoners as codified in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).

“Additionally, prison authorities routinely deprive inmates of access to education, adequate healthcare, and visits by families and lawyers.”

Many activists mourned Hassan on social media, condemning his detention as unjust. Khalil Anani, a political science professor, described Hassan as “a new victim of the military junta’s prisons.

“Hassan was one of the most respectable public figures in the country,” said Anani. “He was arrested on 19 August 2013, and was kept in solitary confinement for eight years in Scorpion prison until his death.”

“My father, you have lived strong, jailed as a champion and died as a martyr,” Baraa wrote, according to Arabi21. “They refused to allow funeral prayer for you. I wish that all your lovers will pray for you. I hope that Allah would accept you and take revenge on those who killed you.”

Arabi21 reported that activists prayed for the MP and called for Allah to take revenge on the jailers, prosecutors, courts, government and Egypt’s Sisi.

The activists pointed out that Al-Sisi is adopting a “hellish policy” to eliminate his political opponents, sending them to prison and adopting a “slow death policy”, which includes starvation, medical negligence, and bans on healthy food, medicines and sunlight.

Activists and rights groups have stated that 119 political prisoners have died so far inside Egyptian prisons.

According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice (CFJ), which tracks deaths in Egyptian prisons, including those as a result of Covid-19, at least 1,000 prisoners died in custody between July 2013 and October 2020. Causes of deaths included torture, suicide and poor detention conditions. The majority of those deaths were due to medical negligence, the CFJ’s director, Ahmed Mefreh said.

Those who died in custody as a result of medical negligence in recent years include former President Morsi, Egyptian-American prisoner Moustafa Kassem, film director Shady Habash, and former MP Essam El-Erian.

Sisi has repeatedly justified the crackdown on his critics as part of the fight against terrorism, and has denied the country has any political prisoners.

An estimated 60,000 people have been arrested under his rule, many of them critics, writers, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters. Thousands have been jailed without trial under Egypt’s abusive pre-trial detention system.