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Two years after Mubarak, his prison torture apparatus still wounds Egypt

Human rights activists hoped a democratic government would bring reform to Egypt's prison system, but two years after the revolution, they are still calling for an end to torture. 

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Political activists and relatives of political prisoners, imprisoned since the January 25 revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, wave banners and shout slogans during a protest against the government in front of the main gate of Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo in this July 29 file photo.

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters/File

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Sitting cross-legged on a makeshift bed in his parent’s apartment, Tarek Mohamed Abdel Hafez lifts his jacket to reveals his battle scars – marks from the first few weeks of his nearly 1,000-day sentence in prison. 

“It was 12 days of torture – four days upstairs and eight days underground, where I was naked and not given any food or water," he says.

Mr. Hafez says he was wrongly accused of throwing explosives at police during the two-day uprising in Mahalla, where he lives, in April 2008. The protest was one of the most infamous political demonstrations to take place before the Jan. 25 revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of people were arrested, including Hafez, and many faced torture – a practice that has long been ingrained in the Egyptian prison system.

Police torture was one of the main grievances of the protesters who flooded Tahrir Square in 2011, and Egyptians hoped that the election of the country’s first civilian president would bring reformation of institutions of repression under Mubarak. But not much has changed in the intervening years.

“Torture in Egyptian police stations is regular, systematic, and widespread,” says Dr. Suzan Fayyad, director for the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence. The Nadim Center is one of the few local advocacy groups working to address torture in the country’s prisons. “Every person who walks into a police station risks falling as victim of torture.” 

Amnesty International released a report last week outlining abuses committed by the country’s police forces. The document called on democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi to initiate a plan for reform in order to curb human rights abuses at all levels of the security forces.

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