Human rights group accuses Egypt of negligence over prisoner’s death

Published September 27th, 2015 - 06:29 GMT
Prisoner Emad Hassan died while in the custody of prison authorities Friday. (AFP/File)
Prisoner Emad Hassan died while in the custody of prison authorities Friday. (AFP/File)

Images of the emaciated body of prisoner Emad Hassan, who died while in the custody of Egypt's prison authorities on Friday, has electrified social media activists, sparking conflicting accounts on whether the cancer patient was given essential medical treatment. 

A local organization called the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) claimed in a statement on its Facebook page that Hassan was "deprived" of "urgent surgery."

"All medical reports confirmed his need for treatment," the organization said.

They added that government hospitals and the Interior Ministry "arbitrarily" used "false pretenses" to keep him from receiving medical care, including citing a shortage of security personnel needed to transfer him to a hospital.

Despite all the appeals by rights groups and official notices from Hassan's family, the organization claimed,  "the Interior Ministry did not respond."

An Interior Ministry source told Aswat Masriya that Hassan was a political detainee arrested about a year ago on accusations of belonging to a banned organization. The ECRF confirmed that he was a political detaintee held under supreme national security court case number 29 of 2015.

The ministry official, however, denied any wrong-doing. 

Blaming prison officials for his death, the official continued, constitutes "lies" and "allegations" spread "by the Muslim Brotherhood."  

He explained that Hassan was taken to hospital after falling ill.

This was when doctors discovered that he had stomach cancer. Doctors routinely saw him, "but the cancer was discovered late, which is why they failed to treat it," he said.

There are conflicting reports on where Hassan died. While the ministry official claims that he was at Kasr El-Aini hospital when he passed away, botaqh the rights group and his family claim that he died at the maximum security al-Aqrab prison when authorities failed to transfer him to the cancer hospital for surgery, even though he was taken to Kasr al-Aini several times throughout his illness.

At Hassan's funeral Saturday night, mourners chanted against Egypt's current regime. In a video posted on Youtube showing the funeral procession, Hassan's wife promised, "I will raise your children." 

Conditions inside Egyptian prisons have come under heavy scrutiny this year following the death in custody of several prisoners. 

In August, Al Jamaa Islamiya's leading figure Essam Derbala died in the same al-Aqrab prison. His Islamist group claimed that he was denied access to essential medicine. 

Earlier this year, a report commissioned by the Old Cairo Prosecution office and prepared by a medical team from state-run hospitals, concluded that an examination of more than 200 prisoners inside an Egyptian police station revealed that dozens suffered from various diseases including diabetes, swelling of various body parts, viral infections and chest and skin diseases like scabies. 

The report came out days after two people detained at the Old Cairo police station had died. 

Deaths in custody are not not well-documented, since little access is granted to human rights defenders and journalists. 

Egypt's National Council for Human Rights said in a report in May that at least 80 detainees died in custody in prisons and police stations between June 2013 and December 2014.  

In June 2015, Human Rights Watch cited a higher number. The rights watchdog said in a report that at least 124 deaths in custody have been documented by Egyptian human rights organizations since August 2013, citing "medical negligence, torture, or ill-treatment." 

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