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U.S. Rights Group Accuses Egypt of Abusing Prisoners

February 24, 1993

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A U.S.-based human rights group on Wednesday condemned Egypt’s prison conditions and accused authorities of condoning whippings and beatings.

The 157-page report by Middle East Watch was based on an eight-day inspection of six jails a year ago.

The group, based in New York, said there was no evidence of systematic torture inside prisons, but that male inmates were beaten and whipped in violation of the Egyptian constitution.

″Most alarming about this physical violence is that some of it was premeditated and organized, carried out in the presence of prison officers,″ the report said. ″At least some of the beatings have been highly organized involving a large number of policemen.″

Prosecutor-General Ragaa el-Araby was quoted telling the group’s inspectors that he had received no complaints of prisoner mistreatment during his six months in office. The prosecutor-general oversees all Egyptian civilian prisons.

The government denies that torture is practiced systematically in Egypt, but it does acknowledge individual cases.

Middle East Watch said political prisoners are singled out for particularly harsh treatment. It quotes some as saying they were beaten during cell searches or for staging hunger strikes protesting prison conditions. Some said policemen struck them with electric prods and leather whips with pieces of metal attached.

The report also said medical care in Egypt’s prison system is poor. It cited the case of Ibrahim Tantawi, 60, who died of a heart attack because no doctor came to see him. He was serving the last month of a 20-year narcotics sentence.

Middle East Watch said that most prison hospitals it visited were filthy. It said most prisons are more than 100 years old and have leaky pipes, algae growing on the floors and walls, and few or no windows.

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