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NGO: Egypt prisoners to go on 1-day hunger strike

Human rights activists report that inmates will announce a mass hunger strike in protest against alleged mistreatment in prisons
16,000 people have been arrested by authorities in Egypt over the past year activists say (AFP)

By Islam Mosaad

CAIRO - More than 16,000 people held by Egypt's army-backed authorities since last July's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi plan to declare a one-day hunger strike Wednesday to protest alleged mistreatment inside the nation's prisons, a rights activist has said.

"Detainees in the [military] coup's prisons are staging a hunger strike aimed at pressuring the regime to end the practice of torture inside prisons and release those innocent of wrongdoing," Haytham Abo Khalil, director of the Victims Center for Human Rights, an Egyptian NGO, told Anadolu Agency by phone.

The single-day hunger strike, announced earlier this month, is being organized in 11 prisons across the country, Abo Khalil said.

"A group of lawyers are monitoring the [hunger] strike, which has been received positively by detainees," he added.

A recent report by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), a local NGO, documented 21,317 cases of individuals who had been subject to prosecution since Morsi's ouster by the military last July.

According to the report, 16,387 of these were arrested while participating in political activities (i.e., participation in pro-Morsi rallies, etc).

Abo Khalil said that his NGO was coordinating with the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy – Morsi's main support bloc in Egypt – to organize parallel demonstrations as the hunger strike progresses.

"We are also coordinating with certain Egyptian expatriate communities to stage demonstrations outside embassies and consulates abroad to raise awareness about the detainees' plight," he added.

Egyptian prison authorities could not be reached for comment or verification of the claims.

There have been reports of widespread and systematic mistreatment and torture being carried out in Egyptian detention facilities.

However, the Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied reports of torture being used against detained supporters of ousted president Morsi and his embattled Muslim Brotherhood group.

The military-backed government also denies the presence of any "political" prisoners in the nation's jails, saying the thousands arrested since Morsi's ouster face criminal charges.