Egypt: Young activist forced to admit imaginary crime under brutal torture
Ahmad El Shal, a young doctor and anti-coup activist reportedly abducted on 6 March 2014 by the Egyptian intelligence services reappeared in Al Aqrab prison 3 weeks later. He told his family that he was brutally tortured during his secret detention and forced to admit the murder of a police officer and the constitution of a terrorist cell. This new account along with recent reports of severe torture used in Egyptian detention centres against anti-coup activists confirms the severity of the repression against government's opponents. Today, Alkarama solicited the urgent intervention of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention with the Egyptian authorities on Ahmad's behalf.
Ahmad's brother Khaled was killed by a sniper on 14 August 2013 at Rabaa's events. After his execution, he was kept in Imam Mosque before authorities accepted handing his body to his family. Since then, Mr El Shal's family is facing continuous harassment by the authorities. His other brother, Osama, was also arrested following his participation in anti-coup demonstrations and severely tortured while detained. After his release, he left Egypt fearing harassment. Ahmad El Shal is the third person from this family to be targeted by the Egyptian authorities.
On 6 March 2014, Ahmad was abducted in Ahmad Maher Street, Al Mansoura, Al Daqahliya and his car was confiscated. Witnesses immediately called the family to inform them about the abduction but just a few hours later, they were disappeared themselves before having had the time to meet the family and inform them of the details of the abduction.
That same evening, the house of Mr El Shal's family was searched by officers of Al-Amn Al-Watani in civilian clothes, without showing a search warrant. Some officers interrogated the victim's mother and pressured her to give false evidence against her son. They asked her for example to declare that Mr El Shal had planned to kill police officers in revenge of his brother's death.
Five days after his abduction, on 12 March 2014, Ahmad appeared along with two other young men on pro-government TV channels to 'confess' a crime that he had not committed: premeditatedly killing a police officer. The young man appeared completely disoriented and scared. The video shows an arsenal of weapons with a brief but detailed account of the crime by the alleged culprits. At the time when the video was aired, the family told Alkarama that the authorities were denying his detention.
It was only nine days later, on 21 March, that the family learnt by chance that Ahmad was detained in Al Aqrab high security prison in Torah, South Cairo. They received a call from a lawyer who, as he was visiting a client in Al Aqrab, learnt that Ahmad was presented the same day before the General Prosecutor. Ahmad is accused of having killed a police officer and constituting a terrorist cell, trumped-up charges which are being widely used against activists.
The victim's family was finally able to visit Ahmad last Thursday, on 27 March 2014, after 3 weeks of secret detention. What he told them filled them with dread. After his abduction he was taken to a first location, reportedly Al Mansoura's police station, where he was severely tortured four days in a row. He was beaten, electrocuted, undressed, blindfolded and humiliated without interruption. It was after this ordeal that he had to make the false confessions aired on national television. Then, he was taken to Al Aqrab prison where he is currently detained. Ahmad told the family that during his apparition before the Prosecutor he told him that he was tortured and forced to confess a crime he has not committed. "I did not kill anyone", he said. The Prosecutor refused to register any complaint.
Alkarama is extremely concerned by the numerous reports of severe torture it has received over the past few months which indicate that this method is being used in a widespread manner to extract confessions from anti-coup activists in Egyptian detention centres. In the past few months, Alkarama has informed the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture about 20 cases describing savage treatment inflicted to detainees. In all cases, as Alkarama's public report "Impunity is not an option" demonstrates, no independent and prompt investigation is open by the judiciary into these serious human rights violations and the perpetrators remain unaccountable.
Today, Alkarama solicited the urgent intervention of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention with the Egyptian authorities to ask them to drop off the charges laid against Ahmad El Shal which are only based on confessions extracted under torture and release him immediately.