Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Reprieve) – An Irish teenager facing the death penalty in an Egyptian mass trial has told of ‘experimental torture’ under way in the prison where he is held.
Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, was 17 when he was arrested in 2013 after the government of President Sisi seized power and launched a crackdown on protests. Although Ibrahim was a juvenile at the time of his arrest, he has been held in a series of adult prisons, and faces the death penalty as an adult in a trial of 494 peoples. He has reported mistreatment throughout his detention, and has been denied medical attention despite having been shot in the hand on his arrest.
During a visit to him earlier this year at Wadi Natrun prison – where the mass trial is set to restart next month – human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, heard details of the torture that the defendants are said to be suffering. A Reprieve caseworker was told by Ibrahim that some prisoners were being tied naked in a crucifix position in the prison’s halls, while others had been electrocuted, using pools of water to increase the pain. Ibrahim added that he was regularly beaten with rubber bars, and was singled out by one senior guard for particular abuse. The caseworker observed that Ibrahim’s health appeared to be failing.
In a letter sent to his family this week, Ibrahim repeated his account of the abuses, writing: “This is the place where experimental torture is practised. This is the place that when you’re in, there is no out. Words will never do justice to what happens in Egyptian prisons.” He also said confirmed that he was on a hunger strike in protest at his continued detention, saying: “Being in a mass trial will never grant me my freedom… I [am] not protesting for better conditions but to be released.” He added: “I really want to thank everyone who has supported me, because it is your help that will get me released.”
Last week, during the visit of President Sisi to the UK, the Halawa family appealed to David Cameron to raise the case with Mr Sisi, while several MPs also raised concerns. A Foreign Office minister said that the UK had previously raised Ibrahim’s case. The Prime Minister has not confirmed whether the issue came up during his meetings with Mr Sisi.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:
“Ibrahim Halawa has been through a horrifying ordeal – arrested and tortured as a child, held in deplorable conditions for over 2 years, and now faced with the threat of a mass death sentence. The latest reports of the torture meted out in his prison are deeply shocking – and it’s utterly clear that his trial alongside 493 other prisoners has precious little to do with justice. Governments that are closely allied to Egypt – including the UK and Ireland – must urge Sisi’s government to release Ibrahim and the many others like him.”
This report was prepared by Reprieve.