Prisoners of conscience in the Borg el-Arab prison, in the Alexandria Governorate, in the north of Egypt, have published an appeal, asking that they be rescued from the abuses they are being subjected to by the Egyptian authorities.
In a message seen by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK), the detainees say: “In the darkness of the prison, we suffer from cramped conditions. When entering the first stage of the prison, the incoming prisoner will be in a room of 3.5 x 2 metres, with between 60 to 80 detainees inside.”
The authors of the message say that such holding cells are so small that detainees cannot sleep or stand, and that there is only one bathroom. Prisoners can “spend a month or two months in this state. Their calls and complaints are not answered.”
“Among them are people who have spent a year or more there, without seeing the sun. Typically new prisoners spend 10 or 15 days in such holding cells, and sometimes less.”
The letter referred to so-called ‘discipline’ periods, or periods of punishment inflicted on detainees, typically without any explanation from the authorities.
Such periods involve three to five prisoners being placed in a room measuring 1.5 x 2 metres. Every day each prisoner is given bread and cheese, and one bottle of water. There is no toilet; instead a bucket is provided.
The letter explains that detainees punished in this manner do not dare to ask when they will be released, saying that “there is no law in Borg el-Arab prison. It is the rule of the strongest; all kinds of physical and mental tortures occur in the ‘discipline’ room.”
In the letter, prisoners say that they are prohibited from exercise, that they do not see the sun, that ventilation is poor, and that food is of low quality and insufficient.
Each prisoner is allowed a visit from one person per month. The prison administration prevents the visitor from supplying food for more than one day. Only one kilogram of fruit is permitted to be given to detainees.
Authorities even impose very high prices on visitors to the prison cafeteria.