Rights Groups Call on Egyptian Govt to Free Prisoners to Contain Virus

Published March 24th, 2020 - 11:46 GMT
A worker disinfects the Royal Mummies Hall at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, on March 23, 2020. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP
A worker disinfects the Royal Mummies Hall at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, on March 23, 2020. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

Egyptian human rights groups are demanding authorities to release pre-trial detainees and prisoners not involved in cases of violence or terrorism from overcrowded prisons due to the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Rights groups and the families of detainees have said that prisons suffer from overcrowding and poor health services, which would spell disaster in a virus outbreak. Prison authorities have however, asserted that the facilities are safe, underscoring the preventive measures they have taken.

The prison authority had suspended family visits until the end of March as a precaution over the outbreak in the country and for the safety of the inmates.


Chairwoman of the Cairo Foundation for Development and Law, Initsar a-Saeed, remarked that these measures were not enough. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that several inmates suffer from chronic diseases. She also noted the possibility of guards transmitting the virus to inmates after coming in contact from people outside the prison.

Observers believe that if the virus were to emerge in prisons, it would be difficult to stop its rapid spread, that is if it has not already happened before the decision to bar visits went into effect.

Last week, the Supreme State Security Prosecution announced it will release 15 opposition activists who had been imprisoned for several months. They included prominent opponents of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi: professor of political science at Cairo University, Hassan Nafaa, political activist Hazem Abdel-Azim, and Revolution Youth Coalition member Dr. Shadi al-Ghazali Harb.

The move was widely welcomed by Egyptian rights activists and groups, which also demanded that the move be followed with the release of prisoners who are not involved in cases of violence or terrorism.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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