Socialist Worker

Egyptian detainees accuse state of torture

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2118

Some of the Mahalla 49 prisoners being held in a cage in court during their trial (Pic: Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Some of the Mahalla 49 prisoners being held in a cage in court during their trial (Pic: Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Egyptian security used torture and cooked up evidence against workers arrested following mass protests that erupted in the town of Mahalla earlier this year.

The accusations from lawyers and human rights groups were made during the opening days of the trial of 49 people in an Egyptian emergency state security court.

The Mahalla 49 were rounded up following a strike for national minmum wage in the Nile Delta town between 6 and 7 April.

The detainees, who were corralled in a cage in the court, chanted, “We want Justice! God help us! We are innocent!” and shouted abuse at police commander Khaled Gharaba as he entered the room.

They accuse him of torturing confessions out of them.

Defence lawyers told the court that none of the detainees were arrested while in the act of committing any crimes, but were rounded up in the days following the protests.

Journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy reports that the detainees said, “they were forced to strip naked as the police subjected them to electric shocks on their lips, hands, breasts, genitals and feet.

“Others said after they were stripped the police brought in dogs and threatened the detainees with rape by the animals.”

Police kept the families in an alley outside the court building, Hossam added.

“The court building swarmed with dozens of high ranking officers, dressed in trendy suits without ties, from Mahalla’s First and Second police station, accompanied with a good number of informers and corporals in plainclothes with guns sticking out of their pants.”

The allegation of torture was confirmed by Amnesty International.

The human rights group said in a statement, “The main evidence used against the defendants are the confessions, allegedly extracted under torture, that they had thrown stones at the police, as well as the testimonies of members of the security forces and government officials.

“Some of the defendants said that they had not even participated in the protests, this being confirmed by witnesses,” the statement added.

These statements were dismissed by the public prosecutor.

For regular reports of the trial go to »

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Tue 9 Sep 2008, 18:55 BST
Issue No. 2118
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