Egyptian-Irish detainee Ibrahim Halawa wrote a letter from his prison cell, which was published Friday by British newspaper The Guardian, in which he disclosed the conditions and treatment in the prison and the severe repercussions on his deteriorating health.
Halawa was detained on 16 August 2013 in the aftermath of the dispersals of sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweyya and Al-Nahda. He was arrested along with his three sisters who were released shortly after on bail. They were detained for protesting the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and against the violent dispersal of the sit-ins.
Halawa commenced his letter by saying that there are two types of torture in Egypt’s prisons: mental and physical. He explained that verbal torture does not count. He added that he always chooses the physical torture, as it is easier when compared to mental torture.
The detainee said that he was 17 when he was arrested, and every time he is transferred to a different prison he must go through what he called “The Party”. Halawa said that this party is to show the prisoners who has the upper hand. The prisoners are beaten and stripped of their clothes, then they lie down on the ground and the police begin jumping on their backs.
Halawa is awaiting a mass trial that includes 493 defendants, and faces a possible death penalty. He continued in his letter by saying that it is normal to be stripped naked, beaten with a bar, cursed at, and put in solitary confinement. He also said that the belongings of the prisoners may go missing if the guards like them.
He further added that when he went on a hunger strike, he was about to die when other prisoners kept knocking on the door, seeking assistance from guards, and the latter would say: “When he dies, knock.”
“The police and the army sacrificed their lives for Egypt, so they should rule it,” that was the answer Halawa received when he was asked about the reason for the abuse. He also said that they told him that they have to show who is in charge.
Though the capacity of the prison is only 2,000 prisoners, it hosts an overabundance of 6,000 prisoners. One cell can hold up to 30 prisoners, but there is no sanitation whatsoever, he said.
The prisoners eat in the same bucket they take the garbage in, and the guards often spit in the food, as a means of having fun. Halawa concluded his letter by saying that he never imagined that he would be imprisoned, adding that whether he is acquitted or sentenced, his case is not over. He said that he doesn’t hope to receive a sentence because he wants to go back home, referring to Ireland.
In December 2015, the EU parliament demanded that Halawa be released. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the EU parliament’s demand and said that it is a violation of the transparency of Egypt’s judicial body.