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Nearly 800 detainees died in Egyptian jails since 2013: Report

Arab Organisation for Human Rights says 762 people have died since country's coup, largely due to medical negligence
Members of the Egyptian security forces are seen seated on benches at a make-shift courthouse in southern Cairo (AFP)

Hundreds of detainees have died in Egyptian jails since the country's 2013 coup, largely as a result of medical negligence, according to the London-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights.

The rights group said on Friday that 762 people had died while in prison, and that out of these, 551 had died as a result of medical negligence.

"Egyptian prisons have turned into execution compounds taking the lives of their detainees by denying them the right to the medical care they need and providing a fertile environment for diseases and epidemics to spread inside the detention centres due to the lack of hygiene, pollution and overcrowding," the group said.

"Twenty cases of deaths among detainees have been registered during 2019, including 15 detainees charged with opposing the regime.

"The rest are accused of committing crimes. Seven people died in January, two in February, five in March, four in April, and two in May," it said.

'Climate of fear'

Earlier this month, Amnesty International voiced concern over a new crackdown against rights activists in Egypt after authorities arrested two government critics.

The rights watchdog said the arrest of labour rights lawyer Haytham Mohamdeen and former political activist Mostafa Maher "has raised fears that the Egyptian authorities might be embarking on a fresh crackdown targeting peaceful dissent or individuals with history of activism".

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"These latest arrests have reignited a climate of fear amongst independent activists and human rights organisations about a renewed assault by the Egyptian authorities on the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," Amnesty's Magdalena Mughrabi said in a statement.

Mohamdeen was released from prison in October on probation, after five months of detention on charges of inciting peaceful protests, Amnesty said.

On 13 May, he was summoned by the police and arrested "after being wrongfully accused of violating his probation terms," it said.

The following day, plainclothes police officers went to Maher's home and arrested him.

'Aiding a terrorist group'

On 16 May, prosecutors ordered the pair to be remanded in custody for 15 days for allegedly "aiding a terrorist group in achieving its goals," the London-based organisation said.

Amnesty called on Egyptian authorities to release the pair "immediately and unconditionally," saying their detention is "arbitrary" and the charges against them "vague and has no credible basis".

Rights groups regularly criticise Egypt for curbing freedom of expression and crushing dissent.

Since the army overthrew democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, authorities have cracked down on dissent, effectively banning protests and jailing liberal and secular activists, as well as Islamists.

Authorities insist the measures are necessary to maintain stability and counter terrorism.