Egypt: Aboul-Fotouh’s life in critical danger from prolonged medical neglect in prison

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papersby CIHRS

The undersigned organizations warn that prominent opposition politician Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh will soon meet the grim fate of former president Mohamed Morsi, unless there is immediate intervention to put an end to pervasive medical neglect in Egypt’s prisons; a practice that has become, in effect, a prolonged death sentence inflicted in retaliation for political opposition. As a result of the Egyptian authorities’ deliberate denial of vital medical treatment, Aboul-Fotouh’s health has sharply declined and he now faces imminent death unless urgent action is taken.

Aboul-Fotouh, the president of the Strong Egypt Party, has been imprisoned for the last 18 months on spurious charges[1] in retaliation for his political opposition  to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom he had criticized publicly in several media outlets[2] just days before his arrest by plainclothes police officers during a party meeting at his home. The 68-year-old’s life is now in grave danger as a result of prolonged and deliberately inflicted medical neglect. The prison administration, and the judicial and executive authorities, continue to arbitrarily deny Aboul-Fotouh direly-needed healthcare for his chronic illnesses, which include diabetes, hypertension, and chronic heart and prostate conditions requiring surgical intervention.

Not only have his existent illnesses been exacerbated, Aboul-Fotouh now suffers from additional health conditions borne of the cruel and inhumane conditions of his solitary confinement in Tora Prison. He is denied any time outdoors or exercise outside of his isolated[3] cellblock; his only contact with sunlight or fresh air occurs during restricted family visits[4] and court hearings, which he now attends in a wheelchair due to increasingly acute spinal issues. Aboul-Fotouh’s blood pressure is dangerously elevated due to the prison authorities’ denial of his medications, and he has suffered reoccurring heart attacks, most recently last week on June 28th and 29th.

The culpability for Aboul-Fotouh’s dire health crisis lies with Egypt’s executive and judicial authorities, the former represented by the prison administration and the Interior Ministry, and the latter represented by the State Security Prosecution and Cairo Criminal Court. Disregarding the lack of legal grounds to detain Aboul-Fotouh pending trial, the judicial authorities automatically renewed his detention. His continued imprisonment on charges of joining a terrorist group, although he is the president of a lawful party, is political prosecution, as is the willful medical neglect inflicted upon him, which must be understood as part of the Egyptian authorities’ systematic violation of the most basic rights of prisoners, largely for political reasons.

The judicial authorities have denied Aboul-Fotouh’s petitions for medical release, pursuant to Article 486 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and have even refused to transfer him to an outside hospital for testing and treatment at his own expense. They have further refused to evaluate Aboul-Fotouh’s health or to perform any oversight of his detention site. The callous treatment of Aboul-Fotouh, as well as that of the recently deceased Morsi, stands in glaring contrast to the exceptional healthcare received by former president Hosni Mubarak during his imprisonment; clearly exposing the politicized nature of medical neglect as a punishment, as well as the judiciary’s lack neutrality and independence from the executive.

The death of Morsi should have raised the alarm about the life-threatening, dire conditions suffered by the thousands held captive in Egypt’s overcrowded and under-maintained detention facilities, especially after rights organizations drew attention to the severity of Morsi’s condition a year ago. Instead, the phenomenon of medical neglect continues to grow, in violation of articles 18 and 56 of the Egyptian constitution and in violation of international human rights standards, as defined by the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. In Egypt, not only is citizens’ fundamental right to a fair trial routinely denied; once detained or imprisoned, their right to humane treatment, including healthcare, is also denied, regardless of the severity of their health conditions.

Similar to many of Egypt’s political prisoners, Aboul-Fotouh’s only “crime,” for which he now may lose his life, was to peacefully engage in legally-sanctioned political activity. The undersigned organizations demand that the Egyptian authorities immediately release Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, on the basis of his unjust imprisonment and in light of his deteriorating health, advanced age, and the imminent danger posed to his life by the inhumane conditions of his solitary confinement. If not released, he should at least be transferred to a hospital outside the prison for tests and surgery.

In the interest of saving the life of Aboul-Fotouh and the lives of thousands of other detainees, we urgently appeal for immediate intervention, from the concerned international and regional entities, to put an end to systematic medical neglect in Egypt’s prisons. Without intervention or significant pressure, the Egyptian government will continue to be emboldened to settle its political scores at the cost of peaceful dissidents’ lives.

Signatory Organizations:

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  3. Committee for Justice
  4. Freedom Initiative
  5. Nadeem Center
  6. Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
  7. Adalah Center for Rights and Liberties (ACRF)
  8. Egyptian Commission on Rights and Freedoms
  9. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)

[1] In a statement, the Interior Ministry accused him of meeting secretly with members of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood from abroad and planning to foment strife and instability. He was brought before the State Security Prosecution on 15 February in connection with case no. 440 of 2018/State Security/

[2] including the BBC, Al Jazeera, and al-Arabi,

[3] His request for a refrigerator and his family’s request to supply his cell have been denied, and he is prohibited books, newspapers, a telephone, and a radio, which has left him totally isolated from the outside world.

[4] In the first three months following his arrest, he was denied visits; after that, his family was granted weekly visits in the presence of security guards, but these were suspended for ten days in February 2019. All subsequent visits have been in the maximum-security prison, where he is separated from his family by a glass barrier.

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