Egypt: Imprisoned journalist Solafa Magdy subjected to grave violations in prison

This statement was originally published on on 8 February 2021.

The undersigned Egyptian human rights organizations call on the Public Prosecutor to urgently open credible investigations into the physical assaults, acts of harassment, and abuse against journalist Solafa Magdy by police and staff at Qanater women’s prison, where she is currently detained. The violence to which Solafa and other prisoners of conscience are subjected in Egypt – occurring within a deliberate systematic policy to abuse political prisoners – is a clear violation of their right to physical integrity and protection from harassment of all kinds. The Egyptian state authorities must be held responsible for Solafa’s physical and psychological safety.

The undersigned organizations stand in solidarity with Solafa’s defense team and their call to open fair investigations into the grave violations against Solafa inside her cell, including by promptly having her undergo a medical examination with a detailed report on her injuries, including a severe uterine hemorrhage. Meanwhile, the authorities have continued to stall: neither announcing any investigation nor summoning Solafa to give statements about the allegations.

Solafa’s defense team had proven the incidents of assault – including beating and dragging – in her testimony during the detention renewal session on January 19. The defense has also submitted a report to the Public Prosecution about the assault, which included clear allegations in which Solafa was cited. The report states that on the evening of November 29, 2020, Solafa was taken from her cell blindfolded for interrogation before an officer (whose name was not indicated), who requested her cooperation in providing names, information and facts concerning others. When she refused, she faced threats of not seeing her child again, harm to her husband, and continued harassment against her. Solafa also endured degrading and humiliating treatment during her transport from prison to attend the January 19 session. Prison staff forced her to completely remove her clothing, ostensibly for inspection. She was then dragged by a police officer from the inspection room to the deportation vehicle.

According to Solafa’s mother, after her last visit on January 27, Solafa was very fatigued and could not walk on her own. She was suffering from severe bleeding caused by the prison administration’s unjustified forced examination of her uterus, despite medical reports verifying that Solafa had already undergone surgery in her uterus to remove a tumor.

The undersigned organizations condemn the Ministry of Interior’s statement denying the allegations, even though there has been no investigation nor any serious attempt to verify the allegations. This is the second time that Solafa Magdy has been subjected to torture during detention, after enduring similar violations during her arrest in November 2019. Solafa and her husband journalist Hossam El-Sayad, and their colleague Mohamed Salah, were sitting at a café when they were arrested by National Security forces and subjected to torture, beatings, and abuse; and her phone, laptop and car were confiscated. Solafa has spent fifteen months in pretrial detention in connection with Case No. 488 of 2019, State Security, in which she is accused of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news, in regards to her journalism work related to social and political conditions in Egypt. The only way to address these grave allegations is by opening prompt, transparent and serious investigations to hold the perpetrators accountable; instead, Solafa and her co-defendants are absurdly being charged with belonging to a “terrorist group”, the Muslim Brotherhood.

In December 2020 and previously in October 2019, the European Parliament strongly condemned the human rights situation in Egypt, especially the heinous acts against prisoners alongside abysmal detention conditions; similar criticisms have also recently been levied by legislators throughout Europe and the United States in October 2020. The government of Egypt and its security apparatus have not only rejected this global condemnation while declining any attempt to investigate or halt such practices; they have gone even further by escalating the very same human rights crimes and violations condemned by the European Parliament, while continuing to abuse government critics and opponents held unjustly behind bars.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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