Egypt: Political prisoner’s wife arrested after reporting his prison abuse

Wife of Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer was arrested after criticizing her husband’s detention conditions.

Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer’s wife, Neamatallah Hisham, was arrested on Monday after posting on social media that her husband was mistreated in prison, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Hisham’s social media posts said her husband had been beaten, gagged and forced to stand in his underwear for two days while being kept in solitary confinement last week.

Hisham said that the authorities targeted Baqer and his cellmates for defending an elderly inmate from being badly treated. Her phone was confiscated and taken to an unknown location.

Al-Baqer was arrested in 2019 while attending the interrogation of his client, prominent dissident Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

Abdel-Fattah, a pro-democracy activist, is currently serving a five-year sentence for allegedly spreading false news about police brutality. Baqer is serving a four-year jail term for “broadcasting fake news”.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, called the news of Hisham’s arrest “disturbing”. Lawlor regularly highlights Baqer’s case along with that of Abdel-Fattah.

Egypt has been criticised by human rights groups for its treatment of political prisoners, with around 60,000 people reportedly being held in overcrowded cells under brutal conditions.

On 11 September 2021, Sisi announced the launch of a National Human Rights Strategy that included plans to modernise prisons.

Soon afterwards, authorities opened two large prison complexes, Badr and Wadi el-Natrun, and a year later they started to relocate political prisoners to the new facilities.

Sisi promoted the new prison facilities as a model in human rights compliance, but rights groups have criticised them for falling short of international standards.

The Egyptian government does not have an official record of the number of prisoners, and Sisi denies his country has any political prisoners.

According to Amnesty International, between April and December last year, Egypt released 895 political prisoners.

However, during the same period, the number of individuals who were detained as political prisoners was almost three times higher than the number of those who were released.

The Arab Reform Initiative, a Paris-based think tank, said in a report in February that the total number of official detention centers in Egypt in 2021 was about 168.