Egypt: Jailed army officers go on hunger strike

The imprisoned military officers have reportedly announced going on a hunger strike to protest ill-treatment.

The families of the imprisoned army officers announced Tuesday that their sons had started an open hunger strike for several days, in protest at what they described as “ill-treatment they are experiencing.”

The officers’ families said that some of the prisoners’ health conditions were “deteriorating”, calling for solidarity with their sons and for “releasing them”, according to Arabi21.

“We, the families of army officers that have been detained based on fabricated political cases for more than seven years, call upon the international community to intervene to save our children from the prison’s intransigent chief, Khaled Sultan,” they said in a statement.

The families pointed out that the prison chief Khaled Sultan has deprived the prisoners from “exercising, food and sedative medications.”

“The prison commander is the son of a former disreputable military lieutenant,” they noted.

In late 2019, the detained Egyptian army officers have clashed with their guards in Cairo’s military prison as they staged a hunger strike and demanded their release, according to Arabi21.

Some 26 detained officers have started a hunger strike in protest against their “mistreatment”, and the denial of family visits, home-made food, blankets and winter clothes.

The officers then demanded to be freed following the release of former Egyptian Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan, who was previously detained with them in the same prison. 

Anan was arrested in early 2018 after he announced he would run against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who swept to a second-term victory in a March 2018 poll. The only candidate allowed to stand against Sisi said the president would be a better choice than himself.

At the time, the army accused Anan of announcing his intention to run in the election “without getting the approval of the armed forces or following the required procedures to end his service in the military”.

According to Arabi21, the commander of the military prison located in Camp Huckstep, Brigadier General Khaled Sultan, “brought special forces” to end a riot, as “26 officers of different ranks reportedly clashed with the prison administration staff”.

A source told Arabi21 that “there were injuries among the detained officers after the riot police stormed the cells”. 

The 26 officers in custody have been held under Military Case No 3/2015, which has been under a media blackout by the Egyptian government. 

However, on 16 August 2015, BBC Arabic reported that multiple military verdicts were issued against 26 army officers of various ranks, following their conviction on charges of “planning a military coup, disclosing military secrets and joining the Muslim Brotherhood”, among other charges. 

Jailed for intention to run for election against Sisi

In this context, an army officer was sentenced to six years in prison in late 2017 after announcing his intention to run in the country’s 2018 presidential election.

A military court found Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, 42, guilty of expressing political opinions as a serving military officer, his lawyer Asaad Heikal said, according to Reuters.

Konsowa had appeared in a video announcing that he intended to run against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the vote, which would take place early 2018.

He said he had submitted his resignation from the army in 2014 but it had not been accepted.

Konsowa’s wife Rasha Safwat said they would appeal against the verdict.

Sisi, the former commander of Egypt’s military, later announced he would seek reelection, but this happened after ending all his likely rivals.