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The New Arab Staff

Family of prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah beaten outside Tora prison

The family said police stood by as "female thugs" attacked them [Twitter]

Date of publication: 22 June, 2020

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The elderly mother and two sisters of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah were beaten and robbed by 'thugs' as police stood by, a relative said.
The family of prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah were beaten and robbed as they gathered outside the notorious Tora prison, a relative said on Monday.

A group of women "thugs" beat and robbed Abdel Fattah's mother and two sisters as they stood vigil outside the Cairo prison, demanding authorities allow the family to receive a letter from the imprisoned rights activist, author Ahdaf Soueif said.

Soueif, who is Abdel Fattah's aunt, relayed accounts from the jailed activist's sisters, Mona and Sanaa Seif, in a series of Facebook posts on Sunday and Monday.

Abdel Fattah's mother, Laila Soueif, has made dozens of trips to the prison in recent months but authorities have blocked her attempts to pass on supplies to and communicate with her son. 

On Sunday, the family held hopes that they might be allowed to receive a letter from the jailed activist who they have not had contact with for three months amid the coronavirus pandemic. The relatives of other detainees received letters that day, Mona said.

Prison authorities on Sunday afternoon told the women they were not allowed to gather outside the facility and demanded they move, Seif said.

A group of women dressed in civilian clothes, but described by prison authorities as "guards" with orders to remove the family, later appeared at the scene, she said. A number of police and security force vehicles later arrived, Seif added.

The family feared arrest but remained outside the prison without incident until early morning, when sisters Mona and Sanaa gathered their belongings and attempted to return home.

Instead they were met by "women thugs" who "beat us up in front of the prison gate and the officers and the men stood and watched", Sanaa said.


The family called on the police to intervene but they did nothing, Mona added.

"The women came back, with sticks (or maybe just one stick). Mama was trying to cross the barrier into the family waiting area but the plainclothes pushed her out towards the women," she said. "The women gathered round Sanaa and hit her with a stick on her head and every bit of her body." 

The "thugs" also stole their belongings, including their IDs, Ahdaf Soueif added.

Mona also posted an audio clip of the incident on Twitter, alongside photos showing bruises and scratches on her body.

Despite the incident, Abdel Fattah's relatives say they will continue to demand their rights to communicate with the jailed activist.

"Whatever they do, I will not stop demanding my rights, the rights of my son, the rights of the imprisoned and the rights of every victim of injustice," his mother wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.

"And the first right I demand is: I want a letter from Alaa," she added.

Abdel Fattah has been held in pre-trial detention in Cairo's Tora prison since September last year, when he was arrested alongside hundreds of protesters, activists, lawyers and journalists as part of a renewed crackdown on dissent.

The 38-year-old has not been convicted, but like many government critics, has been charged with "belonging to an illegal organisation" and "spreading false news".

Abdel Fattah initially rose to prominence during Egypt's 2011 uprising against the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

In April, the activist launched a hunger strike protesting against the suspension of court hearings and lawyer visits amid the coronavirus pandemic. Abdel Fattah ended the strike after more than a month when authorities resumed detention renewal hearings in mid-May. 

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