The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the arbitrary jailing and reported torture of Egyptian journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah.
On October 12, Abdel Fattah was detained in Giza by plainclothes security forces, who blindfolded her and took her to an unidentified location where she was beaten for four hours to unlock her phone, Mina Thabet, head of the policy unit at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), told IPI.
The blogger and prominent human rights activist was then transported to another location where she was beaten again, threatened with electrocution, and strangled until she lost consciousness, her lawyer told Egyptian media.
After security forces gained access to her phone, she was allegedly interrogated about her contacts and messages and then left tied to a metal pole in a cell. The assailants also threatened her with further torture if she spoke of the attacks, her lawyer said.
On October 14, Abdel Fattah was sentenced to 15 days in prison for spreading false news and participating in a banned group, sparking further condemnation. She has begun a hunger strike against over her alleged torture.
“This is a revealing sign of how awfully al-Sisi’s regime is treating critics, politicians, human rights defenders and journalists”, Thabet told IPI. “The government is crushing people not only because of what they may or may not have done, but simply because of who they are.”
IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad, said the “sickening” incident was another example of the brutal crackdown on journalists by Egyptian security forces since protests against the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi broke out last month.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the appalling treatment of Esraa Abdel Fattah and demand that Egyptian authorities release her from prison immediately,” he said. “The regime appears hell-bent on silencing any voices of dissent that remain within the country.”
Abdel Fattah is a well-known journalist and human rights defender who became a symbol of the nationwide uprising that toppled former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. A critic of the al-Sisi regime, she has worked for the Youm7 and Al-Tahrir newspapers and had previously reported on events in Egypt for Al Jazeera. She was also a founder of the April 6 Youth Movement and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
IPI is closely monitoring the ongoing crackdown on the press in Egypt. Abdel Fattah is one of at least 21 journalists that have been arrested across the country in the last month, according to IPI reporting and data provided by ECRF. Of those detained, 17 are still behind bars or are being held in an unidentified location, the Cairo-based NGO said.
Her reported torture comes just days after blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah recounted a similar experience at the hands of security forces. Forced disappearances are carried out systematically in Egypt.
Small anti-government protests broke out in cities across the country on September 20 and continued over two consecutive Fridays, with thousands taking to the streets in a rare show of public dissent against the regime of the country’s strongman ruler.
The demonstrations were met with a sweeping crackdown as the authorities began one of the largest wave of arrests in the country in decades, with almost 3,320 people detained.