Egypt fails to curb torture by police: Muslim militants rounded up are being subjected to violent interrogation. Robert Fisk reports from Cairo - World - News - The Independent

Egypt fails to curb torture by police: Muslim militants rounded up are being subjected to violent interrogation. Robert Fisk reports from Cairo

THERE IS mounting evidence in Cairo that Egypt's state security police are routinely torturing hundreds of arrested Islamic radicals with electricity, beatings and even rape - to the despair of lawyers and human rights groups who have tried to bring the practice to an end.

As many as 3,000 prisoners picked up in police raids against el-Gamaat el-Islamiya (the Islamic Group) over the past six months are now said to have been subjected to violent interrogation in Aswan, Assiut, Fayoum, Port Said and Cairo, in some cases suffering more than a week of questioning at the hands of torture 'specialists' at the state security headquarters in Cairo.

The Egyptian Human Rights Organisation (Ehro) lists a series of tortures that are now inflicted on suspects. They include burning on the chest and legs with lighted cigarettes, electrical shocks to the tongue, chest and genitals, hanging upside down and rape.

In a Cairo military court nine days ago, all 43 Islamic militants accused of attacks on tourists and attempts to overthrow the government complained of prolonged torture, prompting the army officer in charge of the tribunal to demand an explanation for their treatment after inspecting the wounds of one of the defendants.

According to the Ehro, many of the tortures are carried out in a series of four heavily guarded prisons 22 miles south of Cairo - Tora Istikbal, Tora Liman, Tora Mazraa and Tora Makhoum - where prison conditions were condemned last year by the human rights group, Middle East Watch. Hisham Mubarak, one of the Ehro's leading officials, claims Egyptian prisons now specialise in different forms of torture.

'Every place now has its own 'creations',' he says. 'In Assiut, the police flood a prisoner's cell with water a foot deep. The prisoner is made to stand in the water and then the police electrify the water, making the inmate jump into the air.

'In other parts of Upper Egypt, they have a refinement of this. They soak a mattress in water, force the prisoner to lie (on it) then place an electric lead against the mattress. In Fayoum, prisoners have told us they are made to lay on a table and hot wax is dripped on to sensitive part of their body. In Port Said, they suffer rape.'

Mr Mubarak alleges that two police detective constables have regularly raped suspects in Port Said but that on other occasions 'specialists' have forced wedges of wood into the anus of prisoners at the interrogation centre on the fourth floor of the state security police headquarters in Cairo, only a few hundred yards from the People's Assembly.

'They also use all the old methods of the Nasser days; beating on the feet, lashing with coiled wire, electricity to the finger tips and genitals. The most feared treatment is hanging from a door by the armpits, blindfolded and with arms tied behind the back - it is very painful and in 15 minutes, the victim is paralysed,' Mr Mubarak says.

Both the Islamic militants and their lawyers - who are in many cases sympathetic to their cause - are, of course, well aware of the propaganda value of their claims. One of the most prominent of el-Gamaat's defence council, Montasser el-Zayat, said he was tortured with electricity on the tongue, nipples and genitals when he was arrested in the aftermath of president Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981.

Mr Zayat was subsequently jailed for three years and endured another period of interrogation after inviting Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman - currently in New York - to preach in his home town of Aswan in 1986.

Western humanitarian workers in Egypt say privately that they have no doubt the claims of systematic and widespread torture are true.

'Torture in Egypt now aims at two objectives,' Mr Mubarak says. 'First, to get information from the victim about the activities and the inner organisation of the el-Gamaat . . . Second, torture is punishment; very often, the police investigators continue to torture the prisoner after he has answered all their questions.'

Lawyers representing Mahmoud Abouhalima say he was beaten with wire coils before being deported to the United States to face charges for the World Trade Center bombing. At least one legal authority in Cairo says the Americans, who used to exercise pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to halt police torture, gave up any attempt to stop the abuses after the New York bombing.

Defence counsel visiting the Islamic prisoners have established that although most are held in the 'Tora' complex, they are also kept in a series of police camps at Qena in Upper Egypt and along the Cairo-Alexandria desert road. Even here, prisoners claim that torture is routine. And Egyptians who fought the Soviet Army as volunteers in Afghanistan were arrested on their return to Cairo and allegedly tortured.

'The police officers who carry out the torture learned from the men who practised torture under Nasser,' Mr Zayat says. 'They, in turn, had learned these techniques from the Soviets. So torture is institutionalised here. This is not just a crime committed by some officers. When the police talk about 'investigation', they mean torture. It's routine daily work. If you go to prison, you will be tortured.'

Officially, the government denies the thousands of detailed claims of torture. Mr Mubarak says he and the Ehro have sent dozens of complaints to successive interior ministers.

'We never received a single reply,' he says. 'Our job is to investigate all these tortures. We release reports and we always write to the authorities. But we are totally ignored. We have relations with all the international human rights organisations but neither they nor we have stopped torture. We have totally failed in our job.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week