Photograph — CIHRS

Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a former presidential candidate in Egypt who has been imprisoned for the last 18 months on spurious charges may face a fate similar to the late President Mohamed Morsi. According to a report by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Aboul-Fotouh is in need of an immediate intervention to end the pervasive medical neglect he is experiencing in prison.

Aboul-Fotouh was arrested in his home on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, shortly after his return from London where he granted interviews that were critical of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government. In one of such interviews with Al Jazeera, he asked Egyptians to boycott the presidential election that was to take place the following month of March, describing it as an “absurd vote” and a “referendum with guaranteed results” which no sane Egyptian would accept. 

The report by the CIHRS states that Aboul-Fotouh is in dire need of healthcare for his chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, and chronic heart and prostate conditions requiring surgical intervention. All of which has worsened due to prolonged and deliberate medical neglect by the prison authorities. CIHRS also claims that the 68-year-old now suffers from additional health conditions borne of the inhumane conditions of his solitary confinement in prison.

In Egypt, not only are citizens’ fundamental right to a fair trial routinely denied; once detained or imprisoned, their right to humane treatment, including healthcare, is also denied, regardless of the severity of their health conditions. – Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

“He is denied any time outdoors or exercise outside of his isolated cellblock; his only contact with sunlight or fresh air occurs during restricted family visits and court hearings, which he now attends in a wheelchair due to increasing acute spinal issues. Aboul-Fotouh’s blood pressure is dangerously elevated due to the prison authorities’ denial of his medications, and he has suffered reoccurring heart attacks, most recently last week on June 28th and 29th,” the report states.

Aboul Fotouh’s current position and condition is akin to that of recently deceased former president Morsi. Morsi who died from a heart attack during a court trial on June 17, 2019, was also subjected to unfair prison conditions. A panel of British lawyers and parliamentarians who reviewed the condition of Morsi’s detention reported that he received inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes and liver disease. Like Aboul Fatouh currently, Morsi was also kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and allowed only an hour of exercise. 

Subjecting political prisoners to cruel prison conditions, a practice that has become, in effect, a prolonged death sentence is a known tool of el-Sisi’s government. It appears Aboul-Fotouh’s only crime for which he is being detained and placed on Egypt’s terrorism list, is speaking against el-Sisi’s administration. “His continued imprisonment on charges of joining a terrorist group, although he is the president of a lawful party, is political prosecution, as is the willful medical neglect inflicted upon him, which must be understood as part of the Egyptian authorities’ systematic violation of the most basic rights of prisoners, largely for political reasons,” CIHRS states.

In the interest of saving Aboul-Fotouh and other political prisoners, the CIHRS is appealing to concerned international and regional entities to intervene and put an end to the systematic medical neglect in Egypt’s prisons. 

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