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Egypt: Female political prisoners beaten during inspection mission

Rights group says Qanatir prison security force attacked number of female prisoners during inspection by a newly appointed official
The Qanatir women's prison in Qalyubia governorate holds dozens of female political prisoners (Twitter)

Egyptian officials physically assaulted a number of female political prisoners at the Qanatir women's jail on Saturday in an "unprecedented violation," a rights group reported. 

According to We Record, an online human rights platform, a security force at the Qanatir prison in Qalyubia governorate attacked a number of female prisoners, one of whom was dragged on the floor and wounded, during an inspection mission by a newly appointed official.

'The inspection chief threatened female detainees that he has full authority to commit any violations against them' 

- We Record

According to the group, the security force expelled five female detainees to criminal wards, including Israa Khaled, Basmaa Refaat, Somaya Maher, Nadia Abdel Hadi and Sarah Abdullah.

All their medicine, clothes and food have been confiscated as a punitive measure, while the inspection chief ordered the banning of exercise for all inmates at the prison. 

"The inspection chief threatened the female detainees that he has full authority to commit any violations against them," the organisation said in a statement. 

Punitive measures

A spokesman of We Record told Middle East Eye that Saturday's inspection was among measures that followed an alleged prison break incident on 23 September, when four detainees and four security officers were killed at the maximum-security Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison, in the Tora Prison Complex. 

He said the measures included stripping detainees of their belongings and allowing them to keep only essentials provided by the prison administration. 

Rights groups and activists have argued that the execution of 15 political prisoners last month might have been a reaction to the deadly incident at Aqrab. 

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The spokesman said that a security force including male officers took part in the inspection, contrary to prison norms that only female inspectors are allowed in the women's prison.

"The security force beat a female political prisoner who is a mother. Other female detainees tried to defend her against the attack, so they were beaten too. 

"They are devastated. They leaked this information during an investigation session today.

"This is unprecedented since 2014," he said.

Egyptian authorities do not allow any independent oversight of places of detention in the country, and the government deals with prison issues in extreme secrecy. 

The state-sponsored National Council for Human Rights said in May 2015 that police stations were 300 percent overcapacity and prisons 160 percent overcapacity.

Human rights groups estimate that at least 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egyptian jails since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seized power in 2014.

Sisi's government has denied this, claiming in a 60 Minutes interview last year that "there are no political prisoners in Egypt".