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3 years after Mubarak, reports of abuses in Egypt

By Maggie Michael

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11 2014 2:12 p.m. MST

In a letter posted Monday on an activist news website, el-Sayed, a secular activist who was arrested while participating in a Jan. 25 protest, wrote that the Cairo police station where he was first taken was "a slaughterhouse where torture parties are going on." He said he was beaten and taken blindfolded into a room where other detainees were being tortured.

"From their screams, I knew they were being given electric shocks," he wrote in the letter, posted Monday on January Gate, an activist news website. Detainees later told him about the electric shocks and others told him they were forced to stand for 16 hours then beaten by guards when they collapsed.

He wrote that he was later taken to the Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo, where he was stripped and sprayed with cold water. Every day, he and other detainees undergo a "good morning" ritual in which their hands are bound tightly behind their backs and they are beaten, he wrote.

In another letter, Karim el-Behiri, a journalist with the independent Al-Badil daily, wrote that he was detained while covering the Jan. 25 protests. He said he was beaten with truncheons by police and piled into a truck packed with young men, and then taken to a police station where police told him to pose for pictures with weapons and molotov cocktails. When he refused, he was beaten again, el-Behiri wrote.

The letter, dated Jan. 29, was published last week in el-Beheiri's newspaper, Al-Badil, which said it was from him, though it did not detail how it was smuggled out of prison. The AP could not independently confirm its authenticity.

El-Behiri wrote that he was being held in a camp of the Central Security riot police forces, where he and other detainees were forced to face a wall, strip to their underwear and then were beaten for a half hour before being put in a cell. The cell had a capacity of about 20 people but was packed with 71 detainees, he said. The next day, when he was questioned by a prosecutor, he reported the abuse, but was handed a 15-day renewal of his detention for investigations.

"What I have seen in this camp is disastrous," he wrote. "It is an illegal detention camp, brutal torture is practiced."

Activist and blogger Amr Medhat recounted his arrest on the webpage of the Al-Shorouk newspaper on Friday. He said he was detained at dawn on Jan. 25, when police stopped him at a checkpoint and found posters in his car calling for a "no" vote against the military-backed constitution, passed in a December referendum. Though he is not a Brotherhood supporter, he was accused of being one since the group opposed the constitution.

In detention, he said he witnessed guards giving incoming detainees what they called "the honorary welcome" — beating their heads against walls and cell doors.

In a report Tuesday, a prominent Egyptian rights group, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, denounced "flagrant torture practices worse than those practiced ... during the worst dictatorships that Egypt witnessed" and called on authorities to investigate the testimonies of abuses. It said detainees have been subjected to "systematic torture" by security forces.

Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy said she had gathered accounts of detainees who were beaten with sticks and given electric shocks in police stations, though she said abuses generally do not continue when detainees are taken to official prisons.

The "circle of repression has widened," she told The Associated Press. "The effect is sending a sign that dissent in any form including peaceful dissent will not be tolerated."

AP writer Laura Dean contributed to this report.

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