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Prominent Egyptian politician is being 'tortured to death' in prison

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh is being subjected to 'slow murder', just like Morsi, his son tells MEE
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a one-time presidential candidate, has suffered eight heart attacks in detention, his son says (AFP)

A prominent Egyptian politician and former presidential candidate is being subjected to “slow murder” in prison and could share Mohamed Morsi's fate, as authorities continue to deny him access to medical care, his son has warned.

Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, 68, has been held in pre-trial detention since February 2018, on charges of joining a banned group and spreading false news to harm national interests. 

He has since been held in solitary confinement at Cairo's Tora prison, where the late president Morsi was held and reportedly treated similarly.

'We are watching him being tortured to death, this is the painful truth'

- Ahmed Abdoul-Fotouh

There, his son Ahmed told Middle East Eye, Aboul-Fotouh has been denied “the minimum treatment that would guarantee his physical wellbeing”.

According to Ahmed, the one-time presidential candidate has suffered eight heart attacks in detention - an allegation the Egyptian government denies.

“Unfortunately we are watching him being tortured to death, this is the painful truth,” Ahmed said.

Horrific conditions

Aboul-Fotouh ran in Egypt's 2012 presidential elections and came in fourth, with 17.4 percent of the vote. He was arrested ahead of the March 2018 presidential elections, in which current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi ran virtually uncontested and won an overwhelming majority of the vote.

He is the founder and president of the Strong Egypt Party, which Aboul-Fotouh established after quitting the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 over disagreements with its leaders.

It is believed Aboul-Fotouh was arrested because of interviews he conducted with journalists in London the month before, in which he indirectly criticised Sisi and the pre-election exclusion of all the president's potential rivals.

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Ahmed said his father has described his cell as “the boiler”, as the unventilated room sizzles in Egypt's summer heat.

Under such circumstances, multiple requests to place a refrigerator in his cell to store his medication have been denied, the inmate's son said.

Aboul-Fotouh has suffered cartilage damage since his arrest due to mistreatment, his son said, adding that the injury has limited his movement and made him more vulnerable to strokes and blood clots.

Ahmed also said he has been repeatedly suffering sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during slumber).

In addition, Aboul-Fotouh has been prevented from undergoing surgery that had been scheduled prior to his arrest to treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate, which has hindered his ability to sleep.

This is all apparently made worse due to his continued increase in levels of diabetes. “Uninterrupted sleep, even for one hour, is a dream for him,” said Ahmed.

'Uninterrupted sleep, even for one hour, is a dream for him'

- Ahmed Abdoul-Fotouh

The only medical care Aboul-Fotouh has been receiving is medicines that are provided “haphazardly” and without subscription or follow-up by specialists, his son said.

Ahmed said he could not blame medical negligence on prison doctors, who are not given the means to look after prison patients. “Medical care is reduced to prescribing medications by helpless doctors.”

According to Ahmed, moving his father to a hospital outside prison, or even the prison hospital, is the only way to save his life.

“That would be our only opportunity to prevent his death,” he added.

Reminiscent of Morsi

Aboul-Fotouh's situation is reminiscent of that of Morsi, the former president deposed by Sisi in a 2013 military coup, who died two weeks ago after collapsing in court during one of his trials.

Morsi's lawyers, family, and human rights organisations said he had been a victim of deliberate medical negligence over the seven years of his detention since being removed from power.

Human Rights Watch accused the Egyptian government of committing “grave abuses” against Morsi by denying him minimum prisoners’ rights, and called for investigating the circumstances of his detention that may have led to his death.

Now, Abdoul-Fotouh's son warns that his father faces the former president's fate, as he is subjected to similarly appalling treatment in Tora prison.

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Two Egyptian rights groups, the Adala Center for Rights and Freedoms and the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights, last week lodged a complaint with the attorney-general, demanding swift intervention to save Abdoul-Fotouh's life.

The two groups demanded the imprisoned politician is moved to hospital, and allowed two medical observers to aid the frail politician in case of emergency.

Hussein Bayoumi, Egypt researcher at Amnesty International, told Middle East Eye that Abdoul-Fotouh's detention is arbitrary and the charges against him are “unfounded”.

He urged authorities to immediately release Abdoul-Fotouh and in the meantime ensure that he is provided with adequate medical care.

Rights groups have documented tens of thousands of political prisoners languishing in Egyptian jails since Sisi came to power in 2013.

Many have died due to medical negligence in circumstances that rights groups have said amount to torture.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.