A Return to Mubarak’s Prisons: Letter from an Egyptian Blogger
On October 31, detained Egyptian activist and blogger Allaa Abdel Fattah, handed his pregnant wife Manal Hassan a letter to smuggle out of jail. Fattah had been previously jailed in 2006 under Mubarak’s regime. The letter, translated from the Arabic version printed in the Egyptian newspaper Shorouk, details Fattah’s treatment in prison and accuses the military of hijacking the government.
A Return to Mubarak’s Prisons
I did not expect that the very same experience would be repeated. After five years and a revolution in which we have ousted the tyrant, I go back to jail?
The memories of being incarcerated have returned, all the details of prison, from the skills of being able to sleep on the floor with eight colleagues in a small cell (2 x 4 meters) to the songs and discussions of the inmates, have come back to me. But I am completely unable to remember how I secured my glasses while asleep. They were trampled upon three times in one day. I realize suddenly that they are the very same pair I had when I was jailed in 2006, and that I am imprisoned, now, pending investigation under similar flimsy accusations and reasons of that incarceration, the only difference is that we have exchanged State Security prosecution with military prosecution: a change befitting the military moment we are living in.
In 2006 I was joined in detention by 50 colleagues from the Kefaya movement [an anti-Mubarak movement that began in 2004], but on this occasion I am alone, together with eight wrongly accused, the guilty as wronged as the innocent.
As soon as they realized that I was from the “Youth of the Revolution” they started cursing at the revolution and how it failed in “sorting out” the Interior Ministry. I spent the first two days listening to stories of torture at the hands of a police force that is not only adamant in resisting reform, but is seeking revenge for being defeated by the downtrodden, the guilty and the innocent.
From their stories I discovered the truth of the great achievements of the restoration of security: Two of my colleagues are seeing jail for the first time, simple youth without a grain of violence. Their accusation is? Forming a gang. Indeed, Abu Malik alone is an armed gang unto himself. Now I understand what the Interior Ministry means when it reports that it has caught armed gangs. I congratulate us for this restoration of security.
In the few hours that sunlight enters our always dim cell, we read creative Arabic engravings from a former colleague. The four walls are covered from floor to ceiling in Quran, prayers, supplications, thoughts and what appears to be the will of a tyrant to repent.
The next day we discover, in the corner, the date of the inmate’s execution and we are overwhelmed by tears.
The guilty plan on repenting, but the innocent do not know what to do to avoid a similar fate.
I stray from them via the radio, listening to the speech of his Excellency the General inaugurating the tallest flag in the world, one that will certainly enter the record books, and I wonder: Was the inclusion of the name of the martyr Mina Daniel [a Coptic protester killed during the October 9 demonstrations] as one of the instigators in my case also a record in audacity? On the basis of it not being sufficient for them to kill the victim and then walk in the funeral, but also to spit on the corpse and accuse it of a crime?
Or perhaps this cell can win the record for number of cockroaches? My thoughts are interrupted by Abu Malik: “I swear to God Almighty, if the wronged are not absolved, this revolution will not succeed.”
The third day, 1/11/2011
Cell 19, Prison of Appeal, Bab Al Khalq
Alaa Abdel Fattah
Fattah is being initially held for 15 days, but his prison sentence can be renewed indefinitely. The ruling army has reinstated Mubarak-era emergency laws that give the government the power to try civilians in military courts. More than 12,000 civilians, like Fattah, have been sent to military trial since SCAF took power.