Skip to main content

Coronavirus: Egyptian political prisoner becomes third to die of the virus, says rights group

A total of 22 suspected Covid-19 cases have been detected in Egyptian detention facilities, according to the Committee for Justice
Hundreds of detainees have died in custody since president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013 (Reuters/file photo)

An Egyptian political prisoner who had Covid-19 while in custody has died, becoming the third detainee to die of the illness, a rights group said on Monday.

According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice (CFJ), Hassan Ziyada developed symptoms of the virus while on pre-trial detention at a police station in the Gharbia governorate. 

Ziyada and three others in the same detention centre were transferred to the General Mahalla el-Kobra hospital after showing severe symptoms of Covid-19, the CFJ said. A total of 22 suspected Covid-19 cases had now been detected in Egyptian detention facilities, the organisation said.

ZIyada had been arrested on 28 March, and died on Sunday after succumbing to the respiratory virus, Ahmed Mefreh, director of the CFJ, told Middle East Eye. 

Ziyada’s wife has accused the prison of medical negligence and refused to receive the body without forensic examination, Mefreh said. The body had now been transferred to a forensic medicine facility in Tanta, he added.

'The Mahallah police headquarters is notorious for being overcrowded with detainees, which threatens the lives of other prisoners'

- Ahmed Mefreh, CFJ

Mefreh told MEE that Ziyada and his fellow inmates had been neglected by police officials when they first showed coronavirus symptoms, and none of those who had been in contact with them had been tested. 

“The Mahallah police headquarters is notorious for being overcrowded with detainees, which threatens the lives of other prisoners,” he said.

“In general, police headquarters in Egypt lack the minimum health and humane standards for  the detention of prisoners,” he added.

According to the CFJ, which tracks cases of coronavirus infections in Egyptian prisons, Ziyada is the third confirmed case of death in custody due to coronavirus. 

In total, 1,008 people have died in custody since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a military coup in July 2013, most of them as a result of torture, ill-treatment and denial of medical care, the organisation said. 

Egypt has so far reported over 34,000 cases of coronavirus and 1,237 deaths, representing the highest number of fatalities in the Arab world. At least 46 doctors are among those who have died.