'Cemetery of the living': Al-Araby TV documentary reveals horrific abuse in Egypt's notorious Scorpion Prison

'Cemetery of the living': Al-Araby TV documentary reveals horrific abuse in Egypt's notorious Scorpion Prison
3 min read
03 January, 2022
Hundreds of political prisoners and detainees jailed at notorious Cairo's Scorpion prison have been subjected to horrific human rights abuses for years.
Muslim Brotherhood members jailed at notorious Scoropion Prison are subjected to abuses [Getty]

CAIRO – Hundreds, if not thousands, of political prisoners and detainees held at Egypt's notorious Al-Aqrab prison have been subjected to maltreatment and inhumane conditions for years now, according a recent documentary film produced by the Al-Araby TV, the sister company of The New Arab.  

Scorpion ("Aqrab") maximum security prison is part of the Tora Prison complex, located south of Cairo.

High-profile political prisoners, many of them are members of the Muslim Brotherhood - designated as a "terrorist group" by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's government - are detained there.

Although Egyptian law guaranteed prisoners the rights to clothing, food, proper healthcare among other humane conditions, the Arab TV documentary entitled: "Scorpion Prison in Egypt - the Cemetery of the Living", revealed several cases of abuse, through interviews with the families of detainees. The film was broadcast late on Sunday.

Among the recent deaths at Scorpion Prison was the high-profile Muslim Brotherhood leader and former MP Hamdy Hassan, who died alone in his cell in November amid suspicious circumstances.

Most prisoners there have been kept in solitary confinement for years in what Human Rights Watch described as "collective punishment", in violation of Egyptian law regulating prisons.

“[Brotherhood leader] Dr [Mohamed] El-Beltagy has been banned from receiving visit for five years now. There have been no trial sessions for a long time. There has been no communication whatsoever. The trial sessions were the only means that enabled us to know whether [he was] alive," his wife, Sanna Beltagy, told Al-Araby TV.

Abrar Saleh, daughter of another senior Brotherhood member, Sobhy Saleh, voiced similar concerns.

"The last time I saw dad was in 2016 before [the authorities] transferred him to [Scorpion Prison]. Even when he appeared at trial sessions, he was kept behind soundproof glass, so neither of us could hear the other," she told Araby TV.

According to the film, since 15 March 2015, prisoners there have been denied access to their families and lawyers, which led many to engage in mass hunger strikes.

This allegedly enabled the authorities to hide any infringements that took place inside the prison walls, subjecting prisoners to a "slow death".

"When I think of my father, he wakes up not knowing whether it is day or night or what time it is. He can't read because there are no books, he can't write because there are no papers or pens, he has no blankets or heavy clothes in winter. In short, he is deprived of life," Saleh told the documentary producer.

Beltagy, the wife, agreed with Saleh.

"When Scorpion Prison is merely mentioned, it is known that those kept there are alive in graveyards," she said.

Sisi's regime has been accused by local and international rights advocates of overseeing Egypt's worst crackdown on human rights in decades, with thousands of his critics behind bars, some suffering medical negligence to the point of death.

Dozens of political prisoners have already been executed or are currently on death row, many of them  Muslim Brotherhood members. Hundreds more have been detained for years without trial or have been subjected to enforced disappearance.