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Egyptian youth dies in prison after days of solitary confinement

Tributes pour out for Omar Adel, 29, who was reportedly placed in a single-person cell after being found in possession of a mobile phone
Adel, who suffered from no health issues, died days after he was put into a solitary cell (Facebook)

A 29-year-old Egyptian died in prison on Monday, days into a period of solitary confinement which he was sent to for disciplinary reasons, his lawyer told Middle East Eye.

Omar Adel, who was nearly 24 years old when he was detained in 2014, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February by a military court, a ruling that his lawyer was in the process of challenging.

"He suffered from no illnesses prior to his death, and according to the preliminary medical reports, the death was the result of an abrupt ceasure of his heart muscles," lawyer Ahmed Saad told Middle East Eye.

The preliminary medical report was issued by Cairo's Tora Prison where Adel was held, Saad said, adding that the corpse has been referred to forensics to further examine the cause of death.

Egyptian prisons, where thousands of dissidents have been languishing since the military coup in June 2013, are notorious for harsh conditions and severe medical neglect.

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Adel was found guilty of joining a banned and armed organisation, a crime commonly levelled by Egyptian authorities against dissidents, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated as a terrorist group in 2013. Adel was also convicted of burning down a police checkpoint. 

According to human rights reports, at least 60,000 people have been placed behind bars since the army led a coup against the country's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.

Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood, died on 17 June after collapsing during a court session. Authorities have been blamed for denying him necessary health care. 

According to a report issued by the Geneva-based Committee for Justice in March, 245 cases of deaths resulting from medical neglect were recorded in Egypt in 2018.

This is in addition to an estimated 650 deaths since mid-2013, reported by a group of local human rights groups. Those deaths include prominent opposition figures such as Nubian activist Gamal Sorour and the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader Mahdi Akef. 

Denied visit 

Adel's family was turned away when they came for a visit on Saturday, and were told he was being disciplined for possessing a mobile phone by being placed in solitary confinement, Saad said. He was placed there on Thursday.

"Adel's father, mother and brother were able to see him when they visited a day before he was refered to his single cell," Saad said.

Adel's death triggered an outpouring of grief among sympathisers on social media, with several former inmates praising his personality, and praying for him and his family. 

Tanslation: There is no God but Allah... My beloved brother Omar Adel was killed in prison after a five-year detention! I am shocked! I witness before God that he welcomed me in prison in the best of ways, and I was with him for a while in the same cell and have not seen from him anything but goodness, politeness and love for everyone. He never abandoned me while upset.

People on social media used Adel's death to call for better prison conditions and an end to prolonged pre-trial detentions, which government critics say is being used to punish the opposition.

Translation: How can we explain the extent to which we've reached in our inability to face all these crimes commited against the country's youth, and will a real investigation take place into Omar Adel's death?

Saad expected Adel's family to receive his corpse on Monday, once the forensics examination is complete.