Deadly virus spreading in Egypt prisons

Egypt had released some 13,000 prisoners since February. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 July 2020

Deadly virus spreading in Egypt prisons

  • HRW based its report on witness accounts, leaked letters from prisons and reports by local rights groups
  • Egypt had released some 13,000 prisoners, but this was “insufficient to ease overcrowding”

BEIRUT: At least 14 prisoners have died from likely COVID-19 complications in scantly-monitored outbreaks of the disease at Egyptian detention centers, Human Rights Watch said Monday.
“At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died, most likely from Covid-19 complications, in 10 detention facilities as of July 15,” the rights groups said in a statement.
HRW based its report on witness accounts, leaked letters from prisons and reports by local rights groups.
“Prisons had insufficient medical care and virtually no access to testing for the virus or symptom screening,” it said.
Information about the health situation in Egyptian prisons is strictly controlled by the authorities.
HRW noted that Egypt had released some 13,000 prisoners since February, but this was “insufficient to ease overcrowding in congested prisons and jails.”
It urged authorities to ensure “adequate medical care” and to accelerate the release of prisoners.
“Prison authorities appear to have done no contact tracing measures and have done little to isolate prisoners who show symptoms,” HRW said.
Guards in at least three prisons had refused to allow inmates to source or wear masks, it added.
Egypt’s interior ministry has banned prison visits by inmates’ relatives since early March.


At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

Updated 20 min 16 sec ago

At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

  • Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes
  • The militants had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people after they returned to their homes

EL-ARISH: More than a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula over the past two weeks from explosive devices laid down in their homes by militants, security and medical officials said Sunday.
Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes. The military then secured the villages in August and allowed residents to return to their homes a few weeks later, the officials said.
The militants, however, had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people, including six from the same family late on Saturday, officials said. The causalities included women and children.
At least ten others have been wounded since Oct. 12 and were taken to the town’s hospital for treatment, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Bir Al-Abd was the site of a horrific extremist attack on a mosque in 2017 that killed over 300 worshippers, some of them fathers praying with their young sons. The tribes of North Sinai have been heavily targeted by militants who view their veneration of Muslim saints and shrines as heretical, forcing a mass exodus of residents from the impoverished area that has long been underdeveloped by the government.
Violence and instability there intensified after the military overthrew the country’s president in 2013 amid nationwide protests against the Muslim Brotherhood group’s divisive rule. Extremist militants have since carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.
The conflict has largely taken place out of public view, with journalists and outside observers barred from the area. The conflict has so far not expanded into the southern end of the peninsula where popular Red Sea tourist resorts are located.
In February 2018, the military launched a massive operation in Sinai that also encompassed parts of the Nile Delta and deserts along the country’s western border with Libya. Since then, the pace of Daesh attacks in Sinai’s north has diminished.