The killing by medical neglect of former president Mohamed Morsi has highlighted the dire conditions for tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egyptian jails. Morsi collapsed and died in court on 17 June after years in jail, many of them spent in solitary confinement, without access to adequate medical care for his diabetes.
In the wake of his death, Egyptian activists warned that the regime was using collective punishment against the estimated 50,000 political prisoners who remain behind bars after unfair trials. Family visits were banned and the prison authorities were reported to be denying prisoners access to routine medical care for diabetes, heart and blood pressure conditions, refusing to transfer prisoners to hospital and closing prison clinics. Prisoners rely on visits from family to bring them food and medication in order to survive in Egypt’s filthy, overcrowded jails.
Jails were on lockdown, activists reported on Facebook, as the authorities attempted to break prisoners’ resistance. Despite the repression, detainees in Torah Jail, one of the regime’s most notorious detention facilities, launched a hunger strike in protest at Morsi’s killing, demanding an end to medical neglect in prison. They also organised nightly protests shouting slogans and running against the cell doors.
Morsi was elected president representing the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party in 2012, during a brief period of relative democratic openness, when the army and security services were still reeling from the impact of the January 2011 uprising. He was overthrown by the military the following year, arrested and charged in numerous cases. In the bloody repression which followed the military coup, around 1000 protesters were slaughtered by the army and security forces at sit-ins in Raba’a and Al-Nahda Squares in Cairo, and tens of thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were thrown into jail. The crackdown quickly widened to draw in opponents across the political spectrum, while the regime resorted to enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions to consolidate its grip on power.
Human rights activist Ashraf Ameen told Egypt Solidarity, “Morsi faced death more than once in prison, as the prison authorities refused to provide him with appropriate food for his diabetes. This is why he fell into a coma so quickly. His death has shocked people all over the world: meetings and conferences have been held where participants expressed their anger and deep sorrow for this steadfast man who was oppressed by the whole world. Hundreds of prayers were also held in a large number of mosques around the world after being banned by Al-Sisi’s criminal regime in Egypt.”
Hundreds of protesters held a vigil outside the Egyptian embassy in London on 21 June to remember Morsi and call for justice for Egypt’s political prisoners. “People gathered from the countries of the Arab Spring and Muslim countries such as Bangladesh and Malaysia,” Egyptian activist Mohamed Saeed told us. “The Arab Organisation for Human Rights held a press conference. Lawyers are calling on the United Nations to investigate the killing. Speakers from around the Arab world called for unity to confront the military occupation by the Arab armies which are under the control of Western colonialism.” The vigil was supported by Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain and a range of other organisations.
What you can do
- Send protests to the Egyptian embassy calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to medical neglect, abuse and torture of all detaineees