Egypt: 22 people handed long prison sentences for exposing torture, not for engagement in it

Ten months after emergence of a footage showing Egyptian police seemingly torturing detainees in a Cairo police station, 22 people have now been handed long prison sentences—not for engaging in torture, but for exposing it.

According to the Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR), the third criminal/terrorism court circuit, based in the Badr Courts Complex, headed by Counselor Mohamed Hammad, during a session held on 17 November 2022, issued imprisonment rulings against the defendants imprisoned pending Case No. 95 of 2022-Supreme State Security, registered under No. 8846, the first al-Salam Police Station felonies, known in the media as the “al-Salam Police Station” case, with 22 defendants in custody and a defendant at large, where YouTuber Ali Hussein Al-Mahdi, living in US, is a prominent defendant.

The court issued life sentences to 9 defendants, while it sentenced 13 defendants to 15 years in prison. The court also ordered inclusion of all defendants in lists of terrorists, and subjected them to police surveillance for five years.

In January, the Guardian addressed videos of detainees being held in stress positions and showing open wounds that they say were inflicted by police.

The video, covertly recorded by a detainee through a cell door, appears to show two inmates hung in stress positions. The detainees were naked from the waist up and suspended from a metal grate by their arms, which are fastened behind their backs.

“Watch how they are torturing us and our colleagues. They came and told us we’re next,” one detainee says. Addressing the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi he says: “Mister president, we want to ask why the police in el-Salam First police station are doing this to us.”

After the reports emerged, authorities cut off all contact between detainees and their families.

Instead of investigating the reports, Egyptian officials described the videos as fabricated efforts to harm the state and referred 22 people to trial. The Egyptian Front for Human Rights reported on November 19 that two days earlier, a court convicted the group on charges including joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and possessing recording devices in jail.

Eight of them received life sentences, another—a minor—was sentenced to five years in prison, and the remaining 13 were handed 15-year sentences.

In other judicial news, state TV presenter Hala Fahmy, who has been in pretrial detention since April over her support for a strike by state media workers, had her detention renewed today.

At the renewal session, she told her lawyers that she had been on a hunger strike for six days and ended it on 21 November.

Ahmed Fayez, one of several journalists arrested during COP27, also saw his detention renewed on 20 November.