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Tens of detained protesters freed; groups pressure Egypt gov't on 'torture'

Decision by prosecutors to release detainees across the country comes in light of recent demands from political groups and rights organisations over recent abuse and torture of political detainees by security forces

Ahram Online , Wednesday 12 Feb 2014
mohamed
Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim (Photo: Reuters)
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Twenty five students arrested in last year's protests at Al-Azhar University were released by Cairo prosecutors on Wednesday, a day which saw tens of other detained protesters set free across the country.

The Al-Azhar students, including eight women belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, had been picked up during protests at the university on 30 October and charged with damaging public property, possession of weapons, terrorising other students and belonging to a terrorist group, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.

The campus of Al-Azhar University, the oldest Islamic educational institution in the world, witnessed frequent clashes between pro-Brotherhood students and security forces during last year's academic term.

The tens of other detainees released on Wednesday in other Egyptian governorates had also been arrested for protesting.

Wednesday's decisions by prosecutors nationwide comes after a week of rising pressure from various political parties and revolutionary groups for those detained without formal charges to be set free, especially in light of recent allegations of brutal torture and sexual assault in prison at the hands of security forces.

Egypt's interim authorities have rounded up thousands of Brotherhood supporters and the group's top leadership since the July 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi. However, in recent weeks security forces have also begun to crack down on non-Islamist demonstrators and revolutionary activists associated with the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

More than a thousand were arrested during protests marking the uprising's third anniversary on 25 January. Some of those detained, including prominent political activist Khaled El-Sayed, claim to have been tortured in detention centres.

Also on Wednesday, six political groups released a statement at a press conference condemning the brutal accounts of torture and sexual assault that are allegedly taking place in prisons. The groups affirmed that they will form a committee to monitor the detained and provide legal help.

"No one should be detained unless they are charged by judiciary order," the statement said. "But this was not the case, as many of those detained from the political activists during the last two months have not breached any laws."

The statement further referenced articles in Egypt's newly-ratified constitution which offer stipulations regarding personal freedoms and the prevention of torture or human rights violations inside prisons.

It concluded with a demand into the allegations of torture and the alleged killing of protesters by security forces.

The Egypt Freedom Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPA), the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Constitution Party were among other signatories of the statement.

Sixteen rights organisations released a statement last Thursday demanding swift investigations into the “increasing and shocking allegations of brutal torture and sexual assaults facing those detained in police stations" since 25 January.

The groups called for all detainees, estimated at over a thousand, to be inspected by a medical team and allowed to meet with a delegation from the rights groups without any prior conditions imposed.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour announced in January that he had urged the prosecutor-general to look into the status of those being detained pending investigation, particularly university students.

Mansour promised that those proven to be innocent would be released.

During a meeting with Mansour last week, youth activists complained about revolutionaries being defamed and arbitrarily arrested.

Mansour denied any systematic police violence. He also requested a list of those allegedly arrested randomly and without charge.

On Wednesday, Egypt's top prosecutor said that Egyptian prisons have no political detainees.

All those imprisoned are either held on remand upon court or prosecution orders or had received sentences from respective courts, public prosecutor Hisham Barakat said.

He made his remarks during a meeting with the first EU special representative for human rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, who is currently in Cairo for talks with government officials and rights campaigners.

Barakat added that all detentions in recent months were ordered in accordance with the country's criminal law and were not subject to any exceptional legislation.

 

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