The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Another letter from Sharqawi

Youth for Change activist Mohamed el-Sharqawi sent another letter from Tora prison, recounting the night of his arrest. I'm posting an English translation of his letter (followed by a testimony from a activist reporter in response to today's interior ministry statement on Sharqawi's arrest).

A letter from Tora

I couldn’t believe myself, as I sat in the prisoners’ truck, blindfolded, and I was in utter disbelief when I heard one of our accompanying officers say “Karim.. Mohammed, we’ll stop here at the prosecutor’s office.�
The whole time as I was being beaten up and up to the point, at the police station, I had imagined one of two scenarios; either being taken to Lazoughli (State Security police HQ), or getting beaten up and then dumped in a street.

At any rate, I stepped into the chief (State Security) prosecutor’s office at 11:15 pm, feeling drained and exhausted like never before. I found him sitting behind his desk, accompanied by his typist, enjoying the blissful coolness of the air-conditioned office.
I walked in feeling rather hesitant, and yet angry at the audacity of all I had been subject to; from my kidnap, to the beating, and the slurs, be it on the street, or the events that unfolded in the police station along with the psychological and physical assaults I had alluded to earlier in my last testimony.
After a long gaze of astonishment, the chief prosecutor began his investigation. In reality, I was not even aware of why he stared at my face in so much shock. “Mohammed,� he said, “Who did this to you?! Sit , sit..,� he pleaded as he ushered for me to sit with one arm, and reached for his ringing phone with the other.
He answered his phone and said to the caller “Yes, sir. He’s right in front of me.� After moments of silence, he spoke again: “Yes sir, but he’s in really bad shape, It’s just not possible right now. Yes sir, believe me, he’s right in front of me�.
After a few more moments of silence he said “Yes sir. As you wish sir.�
After that he closed his phone, directed his gaze at me, and asked “What happened Mohammed?�
I told him the story of how while I was in the car with a female colleague of mine, I was taken by surprise as a group of plain-clothed men surrounded the car and tried to stop it. The car finally did stop in a traffic light at the Abdel Kahlek Tharwat-Tal3at Harb intersection, and they tried to force the door, nearest to me, open. I thought very quickly, and then opened the door and walked out (they didn’t give me a chance to walk out before they lifted me off the ground) so as to ensure they wouldn’t wreck the car. They dragged me until the entrance of a building and started delivering punches and kicks to my face and my chest, until blood flowed from my nose and my mouth. At the sight of this, one police officer came to my defence and stopped the others from continuing to beat me. They then took me into a police car, a blue microbus, and transferred me to Qasr el nil police station, where they subjected me to professional torture techniques, as they proceeded to beat me skilfully, and subject me to a combination of a psychological torture, and physical violations/assaults.
He then proceeded to ask me as to who had assaulted me and did such things he saw before him. I told him I was sure of one thing, and that is that they are members of the State Security with an officer from Qasr el-Nil police station and plainclothes informers whom I see standing before us in protests, for instance, or stand in a strike before either of the syndicates of Journalists or lawyers.
He looked at me for long, his eyes expressing countless emotions, and then said:
“Ok Mohammed, would you like to proceed with the questioning, or should you go to the bathroom to wash your face first?�
I asked him aggressively “Where are the lawyers?!� And added “I will not proceed without the presence of my lawyers�
He looked at me in warm silence – I felt it – then he addressed the typist and said
“Call for the lawyers, and have him wash his face, and prepare him a lot of sugar dissolved in water.�
“Mohammed,� he said to me. “Go out, go to the bathroom and have something to drink; rest for a while and come back..� To be honest, I did not leave with my head held high, but I was so tired that I had to drag my feet to the bathroom, and was shocked to find over six people speaking on their mobile phones. They looked at me in a way that did not scare me, as much as it made me feel bitter to be like them, carry the same nationality as they did…being “Egyptian�. I realized they were members of the president’s security unit; previously, ‘the state security’.
In any case, I walked into the bathroom, and felt an urgent need to urinate, but all I managed to produce were drops that were red in color. It was then that I remembered what they had done to me; how they squeezed my left testicle and what followed that…
I turned around to find a mirror before me…I looked at myself, and only found someone, who at best, ‘resembled’ me, but with deformed features. My eyes were extremely swollen; and if the left was in any better shape, it was because it had only received three or four direct punches.
I walked out of the bathroom and was met by one of the workers there, carrying a cup of water with sugar and stirring it vigorously. I drank it with difficulty over two or three stages. For, despite the fact that I was very thirsty, I felt strong pain on attempting to open my mouth, and upon my stomach’s receiving anything, after all the kicking and punching.
The prosecutor’s typist called me, “Come on Mohammed, the lawyers have come..�,
I became more anxious, and asked, “My own lawyers, or ones you called for yourself?�
“No, your own lawyers..� he said smiling. “Mr Gamal Abdel Aziz and Sayyid…�
“Gamal Eid?� I interrupted.
“Yes,� he replied.
Suddenly I felt a strange rush of energy driving me to take quick strides into the office to find Gamal Eid, head of Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and Mr Sayyed Fat-hi. My confidence and assuredness increased as I stepped in and sat in the seat nearer to the chief prosecutor than to Gamal, and in front of the typist.
I was looking at Gamal, whose feelings upon seeing my state I cannot describe; perhaps he will be better able to. Minutes after that, the questioning started with an affirmation of my presence with the lawyers’, a description of what I wore, the wounds I carried, and details of the injuries I had been afflicted with etc. After that, Mr Sayyed Fat-hi informed us that four other lawyers had accompanied them, and requested that the chief prosecutor allow them to ascend to the office as a police general who was securing the building, prevented the lawyers from entry saying “One lawyer for each defendant, and I don’t want anyone to stand here unless they want to get arrested for “illegal assembly,� an offence under the emergency law.
After Mr Sayyed relayed these requests, an intense discussion stirred between the chief prosecutor who displayed a strong contradiction in his attitude, in my opinion, in his ability to show significant empathy, and yet still be strongly affected by orders that came from ‘above’. As we were saying, the lawyers insisted upon a demand, of the presence of two of the lawyers, as became the case. And so came Ragya Omran and with her Ahmed Ragab, as they joined Gamal and Sayyed Fahmy.
The interrogation resumed once more and to every question that was not related to my tinjuries, or the perpetrators and my detention in Qasr el nil, I replied with the usual
“I refuse to be tried before a cassation prosecutor, and demand an investigation by a magistrate,� after looking at Mr Sayyed.
The chief prosecutor proceeded to question me and address me with accusations, whilst recording my redundant reply without even waiting for me to make it again. At which point, Gaml Eid interrupted him to ask that four lawyers be permitted to come to the office in presence with Karim El Sha’er, after they had been barred from entry at the gate once more.
At this point I asked to be excused to rest a little and the chief prosecutor indicated that he was almost done with his questions and that I could leave in a matter of minutes. Sure enough, the investigation ended in four minutes time, and Gamal Eid demanded I be presented to forensic medical authorities, or a private hospital for treatment, to which the prosecutor refused. Ragya added that Dr. Mona Meena, a colleague of theirs was waiting outside the building and requesting to ascend and perform a medical check up as well as provide first aid treatment for my injuries, but the chief prosecutor refused that as well.
We walked out of the office and the first thing I asked of Ragya and Gamal was that I use the phone. My main concern all this time, was calling Salma and Nora. I just wanted to hear their voices after calling my sister and telling her I would not be able to meet her as I had promised. Salma’s voice and her tears affected me, but I tried to get her to hold on and be a little stronger; I was betting on the strength of the girl that resided in her. I was also waiting for Nora’s very calm words.
What happened after that was very much like what happened when I asked to wait until Kareem el Sha’er was finished with his own investigation and questioning; upon which the chief prosecutor produced orders for me to stay for ten more minutes, but no sooner than the door was closed, I am approached by police captain, and a major from Central Security Forces’ Special Operations branch, to ask that I descend the building in accordance with orders of the State Security general, wherever he was. In reality, the people who were fighting the battle on my behalf, were Gamal and Ragya as well.
Eventually I left, as four other lawyers (besides those present with me) arrived to be present with Karim el Sha’er. At around one am we left in the prisoners’ truck, to go to a place I could not identify at the time, and later came to learn was Mahkoum Tora. The last I heard was the applause of Salma’s mother, Salma and Walaa – I miss her very much, and all those with them.
On the way to the prison I couldn’t think of anything but the possibilities of my transfer to another prison besides Tahqiq Torah.The last thing I saw before walking into the prisoners’ truck through the prison gates, were the faces of the two beauties Manal and Nora.
The last thing I heard was Manal’s voice saying “Take good care of yourself…We’ll come visit you on Saturday..�

Mohammed El Sharqawi – Tahqiq Tora prison
Cell 1 – 8
30th of May 2006.


And it seems the Egyptian interior ministry has finally came up with a statement about Sharqawi, as expected, denying all torture allegations. Here’s an email I received from human rights activist and friend, Sally Sami:
Today Al-Ahram Newspaper published a news item stating that an official at the ministry of interior is denying accusations of Mohammed El-Sharkawi was tortured and sexually assaulted. According to the story, El-Sharkawi was arrested for demonstrating illegally, blocking the the traffic and assaulting security officers.
I am a witness. I was present at the demonstration. Roads were not blocked and neither El-Sharkawi nor Al-Sha’er assaulted any security officers. They were simply practising there inherent right to express themselves and assemble peacefully. Not at any time did I see El-Sharkawi or Al-Sha’er attack any of the officers or soldiers surrounding the demonstration.
Before we departed the demonstration, El-Sharkawi mentioned to me that he was being followed when he attempted to visit the judges club. Obviously, his arrest and torture was planned before hand.
El-Sharkawi was brutally beaten and kidnapped before eye-witnesses. Al-Jazeera cameraman tried to take footage of the unfortunate incident but was denied.
Al-Sha’er was Kidnapped and brutally beaten before a minimum of three eye-witnesses who too had their share of the beating. One of them was a six-month pregnant woman.
When the defence team arrived at the State Security Prosecutor Bureau they couldn’t believe their eyes. El-Sharkawi’s body was full of bruises and cuts. His eyes were swollen to the extent that they could not be seen. Earlier in the day we all saw El-Sharkawi, and he definitely did not look like that.
Who are they fooling?!!! The Egyptian government’s insistence to continue to feed us lies should be put at a halt. Egyptians are not fools and the international community is not stupid. What happened to El-Sharkawi and many others should not be forgotten.
I personally, as a citizen of Egypt and as a human being demand that an independent investigation be conducted. I demand that all those responsible for such sadistic acts be questioned and held accountable.
What happened to El-Sharkawi and El-Sha’er is not far from us. It - on any day - can happen to our friends, family, and even ourselves. Without holding those responsible accountable, we all eventually might fall victims to such acts.