The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Two detainees released; three receive 15 more days; fate of five Tora hungerstrikers unknown

The State Security Prosecutor ordered today the release of two democracy activists, and renewed the detention of three others for 15 more days.

Nael Abdel Hamid and Ihab Mahmoud, who were picked up on April 24, were told by the State Security prosecutor they were free to go, though it’s expected their actual release won’t happen before tomorrow. Ahmad Maher, Yasser Isma3il and 3adel Fawzi, were ordered by the State Security prosecutor to remain in Tora prison for another 15 days.

Mohamed el-Sharqawi was also referred to the State Security prosecutor in Heliopolis today. Twelve rights lawyers were waiting for Sharqawi, but only two attended the interrogation session with him: Ahmad Seif al-Islam, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, (and father of detained blogger Alaa) and activist lawyer Amir Salem. The lawyers said they, as well as their client, were expecting an investigation into his torture would take place today, but they were surprised to find out the prosecutor wanted to interrogate Sharqawi only about his refusal to be referred to the forensic medical authorities on Thursday.

“Sharqawi was solid,� said Ahmad Seif. “He refused to be interrogated by the chief State Security prosecutor, who is the same person who interrogated him on his first night of arrest, and who refused to provide him with medical help. Sharqawi protested, and asked to be investigated by a magistrate. We stayed in the room for only ten minutes, after which Sharqawi was returned to Tora once more.�

On another front, news is trickling from Tora prison that the detainees in Mahkoum Tora have ended their hunger-strike on Thursday. There is no news about the fate of the five detainees who were moved to solitary confinement in Mazra3et Tora. Lawyers Seif al-Islam and Gamal 3eid expressed their concern about the five, after they heard they were badly beaten by the Interior Ministry’s Special Operations officers who supervised their transfer. Gamal Abdel Fattah, according to the two lawyers, was seen by other detainees being brutally assaulted.

It is clear the government is confused about how to handle the current situation. The abuse scandal snowballed its way to the regime's backers in the West, who regard it as too much of a bad PR, and sure the Egyptian government wants to control the damage, but what can it do? Releasing the detainees, means dissent is back on the streets. Keeping them in prison, means continued bad publicity for Mubarak abroad. So, the brilliant security impresarios are coming up with a compromise: release some, renew the detention of others, and re-detain those who were released but haven't learned their lesson, like Sharqawi and Sha3er.