Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, activist (Updated on March 31, 2021)
On January 2, 2021, the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) "rotated" Ezz el-Din to a new case no. 1018/2020 and accused him of joining a terrorist organization, six days after the Cairo Criminal Court ordered Ezz el-Din's release on probation in case no. 488/2019, in which he faced the same unfounded charge. The rotation circumvents a two-year statutory limitation on pretrial detention, setting the stage for an additional two years of pretrial detention in the "new" case.
Ibrahim Ezz el-Din is an urban planning engineer and human rights researcher whose work focuses on the right to adequate housing, slum development, and forced evictions. Security forces forcibly disappeared him early on the morning of June 12, 2019 inside his residence in the al-Mokattam area of Cairo for 167 days.
According to his lawyers, he was interrogated by officers of two Egyptian security agencies, who threatened and tortured Ezz el-Din into making false confessions, including through beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats to harm his family. After a court decision on December 27, 2020, to release Ezz el-Din on probation, the SSSP re-accused him of the same charges, but in the new Case No. 1018/2020.
The court's release order was never enforced and to date Ezz el-Din remains in unlawful and endless pre-trial detention.
DAWN researchers interviewed sources close to the detainee, investigated official documents, and consulted other information from published sources that we consider to be reliable. DAWN is not disclosing the identity of the interviewees to protect their security. They are referred to as indicated below, including the dates of the interviews:
- Interview with source A, on June 27, July 21, and August 7 2020.
- Interview with source B, on July 29, 2020.
- Interview with source C, on August 25, 2020.
Ibrahim Ezz el Din Ibrahim Mahmoud Salama was born on November 15, 1992 in Samannoud city in al-Gharbia governorate of Egypt. He has a Bachelor of Engineering from the Department of Urban Planning at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He was completing a postgraduate degree at Al-Azhar University before police detained him on June 12, 2019. According to Ezz el-Din's lawyer, he would've finished his master's thesis on Urban Planning in December 2020. Ezz el-Din is unmarried and has no children.
Ezz el-Din researched forced evictions within the context of Egyptian urban planning. His work included projects coordinated with al-Gharbia Governorate in Egypt.
In commemoration of World Habitat Day in 2018, Ezz el-Din published a report, "Humans and Homes," that recommended Egypt adopt "new strategic plans for desert areas" and "commit to […] international treaties and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights." Ezz el-Din advocated for the poor's right to better housing.
Time and circumstances of arrest
Source A told DAWN in an interview on June 27, 2020 that five masked, uniformed, and heavily armed security officers broke into Ezz el-Din's apartment in al-Mokkatam, Cairo at around 1am Wednesday, June 12, 2019. They broke the door, ransacked his room, and woke him up with machine guns pointed at his head. The officers beat Ezz el-Din and did not allow him to dress before tying him up and blindfolding him. They forced him outside and into a vehicle waiting beside the building. The description of this vehicle matches that of the Egyptian police's new vans as reported by al-Masry al-Youm; it was painted white and dark blue with a large detention room, GPS, and camera systems. These vans are capable of real-time data transfer to operation rooms in police headquarters across the country.
According to source A, the security forces also detained Ezz el-Din's housemate in this raid, even though he has no connection to Ezz el-Din's work. The intruders also confiscated many of Ezz el-Din's personal belongings: an Oppo F9 mobile phone, a Dell laptop, an Orange watch, 3,000 EGP, and an al–Ahli Bank debit card.
Ibrahim Ezz el-Din remained forcibly disappeared for 167 days. Despite multiple formal requests to security officials from his family, lawyers, and human rights organizations, the government did not disclose arresting him or his whereabouts. On November 26, 2019, he appeared at the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) in the Fifth Settlement, Cairo.
The Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) added Ezz el-Din to the list of defendants in SSSP Case No. 488/2019 (also known in the media as the "Whistles" case after TV presenter Moataz Matar's online campaign in March 2019 urging Egyptians to blow simultaneous whistles on their balconies to protest President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi). The prosecution levelled the following charges:
- Participation in a terrorist organization with knowledge of its purposes
- Spreading false news and statements
- Misuse of social media platforms
According to sources A and B, at the first session of the preliminary investigation of the legal case against Ezz el-Din, on November 26, 2019, the National Security officers (the plaintiffs) presented no evidence to back their charges against Ezz el-Din, but presented themselves as the only witnesses to his alleged crimes.
Trial and Legal Proceedings
- June 12, 2019
Security forces forcibly disappeared Ezz el-Din.
- June 13, 2019
The ECRF's lawyers submitted Complaint No. 8077/2019 to the General Prosecutor demanding immediate disclosure of Ezz el-Din's location, and permission for him to communicate with his lawyer and family. The complaint held the Egyptian Ministry of Interior responsible for Ezz el-Din's personal safety and security. It emphasized his legal and constitutional rights as well as the Ministry's legal obligation to disclose his whereabouts and the reasons for detention. The General Prosecution Office did not respond to this plea.
- June 17, 2019
According to source A, Ezz el-Din's mother, Awatif Ali Qoura, submitted additional complaints to the General Prosecutor and the Minister of the Interior to express her concern about her son's unlawful detention.
- August 18, 2019
Ezz el-Din's brother, represented by the ECRF lawyers, filed Lawsuit No. 56026/73 in the State Council's Administrative Court against the Minister of the Interior, asking to obtain the detention location of Ezz el-Din.
- September 2, 2019
Lawyers of the ECRF sent a complaint to Egypt's National Council for Human Rights about Ezz el-Din's disappearance and the circumstances of his unlawful detention. They requested that the Council disclose Ezz el-Din's whereabouts. The Council did not reply.
- September 3, 2019
The Administrative Court held the first session to discuss Lawsuit No. 56026/73, filed by the ECRF, at the State Council. The Court postponed the case until November 16, 2019 to allow the Court time to review the relevant documents. To date, the Administrative Court has not issued a ruling.
- September 12, 2019
Ezz el-Din's lawyer sent telegrams to the State Information Service (SIS) and the Journalists Syndicate, both headed by Diaa Rashwan, about the arbitrary detention and disappearance of Ezz el-Din, in hopes that Rashwan might provide some assistance (see below)
- November 15, 2019
Ezz el-Din turned 27 in detention.
- November 26, 2019
Ezz el-Din appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) after 167 days of enforced disappearance. The prosecutor, whom we could not identify, registered Ezz el-Din's date of arrest as November 25, 2019—a false date inserted in the official National Security investigation report—instead of June 12, 2019, effectively covering up the duration of Ezz el-Din's enforced disappearance.
Source A confirmed to DAWN on July 21 2020, that the prosecutor did refer the defendant to orthopedic and psychiatric physicians, as Ezz el-Din suffered from severe back pain and depression as a result of his detainment.The prosecutor then asked the lawyer to leave the interrogation room to examine Ezz el-Din's body for signs of sexual assault, electrocution, burns, or torture. Neither Ezz el-Din nor his lawyer are aware of any action taken to investigate and prosecute those responsible for his torture and mistreatment.
The prosecutor listed Ezz el-Din as a defendant in Case No. 488/2019 and charged him with cooperation with a terrorist group with knowledge of its goals, spreading false news and statements, and misuse of social media platforms.
According to a group of independent Egyptian human rights organizations, including the Cairo Institute of Human Rights and El Nadeem Center, SSSP Case No. 488/2019 has become "a widening net targeting anyone critical of the Egyptian government."
The SSSP launched Case No. 488/2019 in March 2019 in response to online calls for protest following the tragic Ramses train accident that claimed 21 lives and left 52 injured on February 27, 2019.
Defendants in this case include human rights activists and lawyers, including Mahienour el-Masry and Amr Imam; politicians and academics, including Dr. Hazem Hosni and politician Khaled Dawoud, former president of the Dostour (Constitution) Party; and journalists, including Solafa Magdy Sallam and Ahmed Shaker.
- December 4, 2019
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019 even though no evidence was presented to establish any of the statutory conditions for pre-trial detention as stipulated in Article 134 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure.
- December 23, 2019
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigations in Case No. 488/2019.
- January 4, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's and journalist Khaled Dawoud's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
Ezz el-Din's lawyers issued a complaint to the public prosecutor against the Tora Prison administration for neglecting to carry out the prosecution's order to present Ezz el-Din to a psychiatrist, especially considering the continuous deterioration of his mental state.
- January 19, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
- February 4, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
- February 19, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
- March 4, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
According to Source A, the Tora Prison administration eventually reported that they presented the detainee to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist confirmed that Ezz el-Din suffered from depression as a result of his torture and forced detention, adding that the conditions of his imprisonment led to multiple psychological problems.
The ECRF lawyer demanded that the prosecution release Ezz el-Din out of consideration for his mother's deteriorating health. Source A continued that the lawyer stressed that as Ezz el-Din is her only provider, his imprisonment left her without income.
- March 15, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019. The defense appealed against the extension at Cairo Appeals Court, but the Court rejected the appeal.
- March 19, 2020
Ezz el-Din's brother sent a petition to the General Prosecutor appealing the Tora Prison administration's refusal to allow Ezz el-Din food and medication from his family. Without these supplies, Ezz el-Din's mental and physical health would likely further deteriorate.
- March 22, 2020
The SSSP extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigations in Case No. 488/2019 without his or his lawyer's presence.
This session is likely to be Ezz el-Din's last renewal session before the SSSP. According to Article 142 and 143 of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedures, the prosecution has the right to renew the detention of defendants pending investigations for up to ten consecutive sessions, with 15 days between each session. In other words, the prosecution can extend the detention of a defendant for a maximum of 150 consecutive days. After the 150-day period, a criminal court (Terrorism Circuit or regularordinary court) assumes responsibility of the decision to end or extend the detention, with 45 days allowed to pass between each two consecutive sessions. In total, the Code of Criminal Procedure limits the pre-trial detention period to 24 months. After two years of imprisonment, it is mandatory to release the defendant. That is to say, all Ezz el-Din's next investigation sessions are to be conducted by a criminal court. It should be noted that some SSSP or court sessions may have been held that are not recorded here due to the total absence of public official documents on Ezz el-Din's case.
- May 5, 2020
The Second Terrorism Circuit of Giza Criminal Court, headed by Judge Moataz Khafagy, extended Ezz el-Din's, Mahienour el-Masry's, and Ahmed Shaker's pre-trial detention for 45 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
Source C told DAWN, on August 25, 2020, that Khafagy made this decision without summoning the defendants or their lawyers and without hearing the defense pleas. This renewal violates Articles 136 and 143 of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure.
Throughout his confinement, judges of the Terrorism Circuits repeatedly extended Ezz el-Din pre-trial detention without giving him or his lawyers a chance to present arguments or even attend the court sessions. As documented by human rights groups, these sessions are chaotic, in which judges receive lists of defendants and extend their pre-trial detention without giving them a chance to be heard and without regard to the dates on which the previous pre-trial detention orders actually expire.
- May 17, 2020
According to source B, the First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Mohamed Sherin Fahmy, postponed the session to decide whether to end or extend Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention to June 1, 2020. The fact that a request was made to extend pretrial detention only 12 days after Judge Khafagy had extended Ezz el-Din's pretrial detention for 45 days, indicates lack of attention to the individual circumstances of each case. The defendant and his lawyers were not given a chance to be present.
- June 2, 2020
The Second Terrorism Circuit of Giza Criminal Court, headed by Judge Moataz Khafagy, extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 45 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
The Court made this decision without summoning the defendants or their lawyers, without hearing the defense pleas. This violates Articles 136 and 143 of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure (Law No. 150 of 1950, amended by Law 145 of 2006).
- June 11, 2020
Ezz el-Din completed a year in arbitrary detention.
- June 25, 2020
In commemoration of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, the ECRF's lawyers submitted Petition No. 26293 of 2020 (Petitions of the General Prosecutor) to General Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawy. The petition explained how Ezz el-Din's unlawful detention flagrantly violated Egypt's laws and constitution as well as international covenants that criminalize illegal detention and the use of cruelty.
- July 5, 2020
The First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Mohamed Sherin Fahmy, postponed the session to decide on Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention. The Court made this decision because the defendant could not be brought from prison to the courthouse.
The Tora Prison's abdication of its responsibility to bring the detainee before the court violated Article 77 of Egypt's Prisons Organization Law No. 396 of 1956 which stipulates:
The prison's warden is responsible for implementing any order he receives from the Public Prosecution, from the investigating judge […] or from the court requesting he bring a prisoner; he shall see to it that the prisoner who is requested is sent at the specified date and time.
- July 19, 2020
The First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Mohamed Sherin Fahmy, extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 45 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019. According to source A, this was the first time Ezz el-Din attended a court session in four months, as courts have been extending the pre-trial detention of political prisoners in their absence.
- August 24, 2020
The First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Mohamed Sherin Fahmy, extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 45 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
- October 5, 2020
Cairo Criminal Court extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 45 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
- October 22, 2020
The First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court rejected Ezz el-Din's appeal against extending his pre-trial detention even though his defense team submitted to the Court medical reports that attributed the deterioration of Ezz el-Din's mental and physical health to his extended imprisonment, and even though the Court released other co-defendants in the same case.
- November 2, 2020
The First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court extended Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention for 45 days pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019.
- November 15, 2020
Ezz el-Din turns 28 years old.
- December 8, 2020
The Third Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court postponed the session to decide on Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention. The Court made this decision because the defendant could not be brought from prison to the courthouse.
- December 27, 2020
The First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release of Ezz el-Din on probation pending investigation in Case No. 488/2019 after 13 months in unlawful pre-trial detention.
- December 28, 2020
A police force transferred Ezz el-Din to the police station in his place of residence; Samannoud city in Gharbia governorate, in preparation of his release.
- January 2, 2021
Following the pervasive prosecutorial practice of entrapping political detainees in endless "Revolving Door" or "Recycling" cases, Ezz el-Din appeared without his lawyers before the SSSP on January 2, 2021. The SSSP added Ezz el-Din as a defendant in a new case, SSSP Case No. 1018/2020 and accused him of joining a terrorist organization.
"Recycling" cases refer to the practice whereby Egyptian prosecutors "recycle" the charges against a detainee in a new case because the detainee has already been held in pretrial detention for the maximum amount of time (two years) permitted by law. The new case allows prosecutors to start a new two-year period of pretrial detention without having presented evidence or completed a trial in the original case. In some cases, even where a court has found the detainee not guilty, the prosecution will recycle the same charges in a new case, again allowing them to continue a "pretrial" detention period of up to two years.
Even though the National Security officers (the plaintiffs in the new case against Ezz el-Din) brought no evidence to support this charge, the SSS Prosecutor, whose identity DAWN could not confirm, ordered Ezz el-Din to be held in pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in Case No. 1018/2020. This order violates Articles 61 and 154 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure, which stipulate that the prosecution or investigative judge must terminate a case if there is no basis to continue with the prosecution or if the evidence is insufficient, and Principle 14 of the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, which stipulates:
Prosecutors shall not initiate or continue prosecution, or shall make every effort to stay proceedings, when an impartial investigation shows the charge to be unfounded.
Given that a year and half has elapsed since Egypt's prosecutors first brought this charge against Ezz el-Din and failed to produce any evidence to support it, it is clear that the charges are unfounded and unsupported by any evidence.The Prosecutor interrogated the defendants without their lawyers present in violation of the right to counsel and legal representation guaranteed under Article 54 of Egypt's Constitution, Article 136 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure and international human rights law.
Source A told DAWN on June 27, 2020 that Ezz el-Din told his lawyer he estimated that he spent 45 minutes in the police vehicle traveling from his apartment to the detention facility of an unidentified security agency. When he arrived, Ezz el-Din walked down a long, narrow passageway into a building where he could hear screams from tortured prisoners.
In the middle of this passageway, an officer who did not identify himself and wore no name badge ("Officer 1") intercepted Ezz el-Din and kicked him under his belt. Officer 1 ordered Ezz el-Din to follow him to a private room where a physician inquired about his health.
Ezz el-Din informed the unknown physician of his asthma, digestive issues, and back pain. The physician took a blood sample to measure his sugar level. When they finished, Officer 1 led Ezz el-Din to a shower room before taking him to a photographer. Officer 1 explained, "After you come to my office, you will stay here for a long time."
Source A continued: a security guard then removed Ezz el-Din's blindfold and gave him a blue prison uniform to wear for the photograph. After the photograph was taken, the guard took the blue uniform and gave Ezz el-Din ordinary clothes. The security forces were effectively treating him as a regular prisoner though at this point he remained disappeared and was not being held in an official place of detention.
They escorted Ezz el-Din to an underground cell with leather-padded walls and a 360-degree surveillance camera installed in the ceiling. After two hours locked up inside the cell, the guard returned to take him outside and explained, "You will not be able to breathe here," before leading Ezz el-Din to another solitary confinement cell. The transfer was seemingly out of concern for his asthma.
Before entering a small room, about nine square meters, the guard blindfolded and handcuffed Ezz el-Din. The guard told him to keep his tied hands up, warning that Ezz el-Din would regret it if he let them drop. This room also monitored Ezz el-Din with a surveillance camera.
According to source A, Ezz el-Din stood and kept his cuffed hands up for three hours until his first interrogation, conducted by Officer 1. Officer 1 punched Ezz el-Din under his right ear and threatened severe punishment if Ezz el-Din did not cooperate. Ezz el-Din told the officer, "I will say anything you would like me to say." The rest of the interrogation consisted of questions about Ezz el-Din's research and work on the state's urban policies.
The guard returned Ezz el-Din to his cell and prohibited him from using the toilet for five hours. Ezz el-Din remained standing with his tied arms stretched upwards until he requested to see the interrogator. Officer 1 asked if he had any news. Ezz el-Din replied, "I will sign any papers you want me to." Evidently dissatisfied, the officer ordered the guard to return Ezz el-Din to his cell and continue forcing him to stand with his hands raised.
Source A maintained that Ezz el-Din spent four days in this cell unable to sleep because of the screams of tortured detainees around him. Afterwards, Officer 1 summoned Ezz el-Din to the interrogation room and asked him to hand copy four pre-written papers about his research on slums and urban policy. Ezz el-Din, tired and exhausted, intermittently fell asleep while copying the papers. While he could not remember all the details of what he copied, he is certain that it was about urban planning.
After Ezz el-Din completed this task, the officer allowed him to use the toilet and eat once per day. However, they took his food away after three minutes, regardless of whether Ezz el-Din had finished the meal. They finally allowed him to pray.
Two days later, Officer 1 questioned Ezz el-Din about the Muslim Brotherhood in Al-Azhar University. Ezz el-Din said he had no particular information about the organization. The officer warned him: "You will write that you were a member of the group; otherwise you will see more from us." The officer then made an implicit threat that he could harm his mother, Mrs. Awatif Ali Qoura, if Ezz el-Din did not cooperate: "We made sure that your mother is okay and still alive!"
Afterwards, Officer 1 forced Ezz el-Din to sit cross-legged on the floor while he circled him with an electric taser. Blindfolded, Ezz el-Din shook for fear the officer would tase his neck or arms. The officer never touched him, but the experience terrorized Ezz el-Din into submission. Officer 1 then lifted him from the floor, moved him to the desk, and removed his blindfold. Officer 1 instructed him to write self-incriminating confessions. Ezz el-Din pleaded to sign the pre-written documents instead of rewriting them, as it was his fifth day with no sleep and little food, but the officer refused.
Under significant duress, source A claimed, Ezz el-Din signed a confession that he belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood. Officer 1 specified names of some of Ezz el-Din's former colleagues and friends that he wanted Ezz el-Din to include. When Ezz el-Din showed reluctance, the officer beat him on the back of his neck and yelled to him to continue writing. Ezz el-Din wrote about five pages of a confession, which he later struggled to recall due to his lack of sleep while writing.
The guards then returned Ezz el-Din to his solitary confinement cell for the next 45 days. Each day, the guards allowed him an hour to sleep and three minutes to eat. His hands remained cuffed and stretched upwards at all times.
When later summoned for his next interrogation, Ezz el-Din fainted from exhaustion upon entering the room, said source A. He regained consciousness some hours later and saw two new officers ("Officers 2 and 3"). Officer 2 sat at the desk while Officer 3, seemingly higher-ranking, sat in the corner.
Officer 2 apologized for Ezz el-Din's experience so far and asked if he would like anything. "Coffee and cigarettes," replied Ezz el-Din. A soldier returned with both. Officer 2 then pointed to officer 3 in the corner and said to Ezz el-Din, "I would like you to be direct with me, it is in the hands of the officer  over there to release you or you will never see the sun [again]." Officer 2's voice grew rough before he put a gun on the desk and declared, "For you, one bullet is enough and then I will throw your corpse in the trash! I have done it many times before."
Ezz el-Din wrote down everything the officer asked. Officer 2 then asked why he attacked the state's housing policy. Ezz el-Din cited provisions of laws that guarantee the right to adequate housing. The officer continued, "Are you in favor or against the slums?" Ezz el-Din answered "against," and they began to discuss Ezz el-Din's knowledge of the slums. The officer expressed appreciation of Ezz el-Din's writings and asked him for solutions to Egypt's housing crisis. The interrogation concluded with Officer 2's approval of Ezz el-Din's possible solutions.
Source A continued that after the interrogation, a guard blindfolded Ezz el-Din and took him to a different room on the fifth floor. Although surprised, Ezz el-Din was relieved to not return to solitary confinement. Before the guard left, he removed Ezz el-Din's blindfold and said he was at Ezz el-Din's service. The new room had a bed, two cupboards, and a private bathroom. Ezz el-Din received food and tea three times a day.
After two days in this room, guards returned Ezz el-Din to Officer 2 who asked how Ezz el-Din found everything and whether he needed anything. To this, Ezz el-Din replied: "Cigarettes, coffee and the Holy Qur'an." The officer directed the guard to provide "whatever engineer [Ezz el-Din] wants."
Ezz el-Din stayed in this room for almost 66 days before guards returned to transport him by car to another unknown detention facility 15 minutes away. Ezz el-Din later indicated, according to source A, that this facility likely belonged to a different security apparatus.
Ezz el-Din arrived blindfolded in a manner that let him see his feet so he could walk without assistance. The new officers told him: "Forget your name. Here you're No. 2." They then chained him to the wall of a bare room with 30-40 other prisoners. Ezz el-Din did not know them, but he overheard some names including Hassan al-Kabbany, Mohammed Hassan, and Abdallah al-Saeed.
At this point, Ezz el-Din had spent 111 days at the first detention center, and he would spend 56 days in this facility, where an unidentified officer interrogated him once. On his first day, an officer told him: "The officers [of the previous security agency] who interrogated you before are losers. They have not questioned you properly. What you saw there was not torture. Real torture is what you will experience here if you do not speak." The officers in this detention center forced Ezz el-Din to sign a number of false confessions about his involvement in subversive and criminal activities.
In an interview with DAWN, on July 29, 2020, source B confirmed that one day before Ezz el-Din appeared at the SSSP, the guards cut his hair and trimmed his beard. On November 26, 2019, Ezz el-Din appeared wearing baggy jean trousers, a tight checked shirt, and lousy dark blue slippers. He requested that the prosecutor note in the record that these clothes were not the ones he wore when arbitrarily detained, maintained source B. After refusing, the prosecutor registered Ezz el-Din's date of arrest as November 25, 2019 instead of June 12. The prosecutor erased more than five months of enforced disappearance and torture from the case records.
The prosecutor informed Ezz el-Din of his status as a defendant in Case No. 488/2019 and accused him of participation with a terrorist organization, spreading false news, and misuse of social media. The prosecutor extended Ezz el-Din's unlawful pre-trial detention for 15 days pending investigation in the mentioned case.
Officers then transferred Ezz el-Din to Tora (Reception) Prison on November 26, 2019. He remained there for two weeks before another transfer to the neighboring Tora (Investigation) Prison. To date (September 9, 2020), Ezz el-Din remains there in extended pre-trial detention.
Impact on Family
The death of his father Ezz el-Din Salam in 2004 meant Ezz el-Din became the sole breadwinner for his mother at the age of twelve.
On July 11, 2019, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) published a message from his mother:
I do not sleep. I sit the whole day and night in front of the house waiting for Ibrahim to return. I know he is a victim; he did nothing. Allah is just and those who arrested him will know that he did nothing and let him go, but it is taking them so long.
On June 11, 2020, to mark a year of pre-trial detention for Ezz el-Din, the ECRF published an audio message from Ezz el-Din's mother:
I will continue to sit by the door [of my house] on the street until Ibrahim comes. [Should] I stay alone in my apartment? I cannot […] Since Ibrahim disappeared six months ago, I was truly psychologically traumatized and when he appeared, I was happy because I could go and visit him. [Then] the visits stopped. I am very traumatized, he disappeared for six months and I did not know why he disappeared. Then he appeared and I still do not know anything at all.
The authorities banned Ezz el-Din's mother and lawyer from visiting him in detention on March 4, 2020 as part of a general suspension of family visits that the Ministry of Interior declared "in the interest of public health and the safety of the inmates," supposedly to combat the emerging COVID-19 virus. Family visits were resumed on August 22, 2020.
Violation of Rights
- The right to freedom and security
According to Ezz el-Din's testimony before the SSSP, unidentified, armed and masked security forces abducted him from his place of residence on June 12, 2019, and kept him for 167 days in unidentified detention centers. To date, no official records report this arrest.
[Article 14, Arab Charter on Human Rights; Article 9 (1), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Article 3, 9, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)]
- The right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance
The petitions of the ECRF's lawyers and Ezz el-Din's mother to the General Prosecutor, along with Ezz el-Din's testimony before the SSSP, confirm that state agents detained Ezz el-Din without acknowledging his detention for 167 days, placing him outside the protection of the law.
[International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Convention CED); Principle 1, 6, Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions].
- The right to humane treatment and the prohibition of torture
In her June 16, 2020 report on Ezz el-Din–which DAWN has read–visiting Professor of Psychiatry at Ain Shams University Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla "suggested that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder … [She] also advised him to use a thoracic belt to support his back and relieve some of his pains."
The prosecutor's decision on November 26, 2019 to refer Ezz el-Din to psychiatric and orthopedic physicians is consistent with Ezz el-Din's brother's statement that the security forces who abducted Ezz el-Din beat him repeatedly, and with Ezz el-Din's testimony that in two unidentified detention centers, the security officers made him stand, blindfolded, with hands cuffed and stretched upwards all the time. They also deprived him of sleep, food, and toilet use for an extended period of time.
Source A mentioned to DAWN on July 21, 2020 that Ezz el-Din sent a letter to his lawyer on March 15, 2020, complaining about the conditions of his detention in Tora Prison and his deprivation of psychiatric and asthma medications. Additionally, measures taken by the Tora Prison's administration to curb the COVID-19 outbreak have worsened Ezz el-Din's situation. In her report, Dr. Seif El Dawla stated that Ezz el-Din's psychological condition is susceptible to "collapse at any moment." She added that the prison's poor ventilation and lack of exposure to open air are especially problematic given the anxiety and isolation since the outbreak of Covid-19, insisting that these conditions may exacerbate his psychological suffering and "lead to a serious suicide attempt."
[Article 15, 16, 30, Egypt's Prisons Organization Law No. 396 of 1956; Article 55, Egypt's Constitution; Article 5, African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; Article 5, UDHR; Article 7, ICCPR; Article 2, 10 (1, 2), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)]
- The right to fair trial
Since his arbitrary detention on June 12, 2019, Ezz el-Din still remains in unlawful pre-trial detention. According to sources A, B, and C, investigating prosecutors and judges put Ezz el-Din in pre-trial detention even though no evidence was presented to establish any of the statutory conditions for pre-trial detention as stipulated in Article 134 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure.
Also, the Terrorism Circuits' flagrant disregard of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure by renewing Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention on multiple occasions without his or his lawyer's presence is a striking violation of provisions protecting the right to a fair trial. According to Article 136 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, "The investigating judge must, before issuing a detention order, hear the statements of the Public Prosecution and the defense of the accused." Article 142 stipulates, "Pre-trial detention ends after the 15 days have passed since the accused is imprisoned, yet the investigating judge may […] after hearing the statements of the Public Prosecution and the accused, issue an order to extend the imprisonment for similar periods so that the detention period does not exceed in a total of 45 days." Article 143 further highlights the indispensability of hearing the detainee's defense.
The Egyptian lawmaker—in line with regional and international legal provisions—envisaged pre-trial detention as an exceptional and timed measure to guarantee the integrity of the preliminary investigation by placing the accused at the disposal of the investigator. It serves to prevent the accused from escaping or tampering with evidence, affecting witnesses, or facing retaliation from others. For this reason, legislators required the court to hear the defendant's defense in person, or through his lawyer, because they consider it a prerequisite for justifying the extension of pre-trial detention beyond its stipulated duration. Therefore, all of the renewals of Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention in his and his lawyers' absence have no legal basis.
[Article 77, Egypt's Prisons Organization Law No. 396 of 1956; Article 96, Egypt's Constitution; Article 13, 14, 16 Arab Charter on Human Rights; Article 7, African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; Article 14, ICCPR]
The right to defense and legal representation [Article 54, Egypt's Constitution; Article 16 (3, 4) Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACHR); Article 14 (3 b, d), ICCPR; Section A, article 2 (f), Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa; Principle 17 (1, 2), 18, Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment; Rule 93, Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; Principle 7, 8, Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyer
The right to reasonably-timed trial or release [Article 54, Egypt's Constitution; Article 14 (5, 6) Arab Charter on Human Rights; Article 9 (3) ICCPR; Principle 37, 38, Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment]
- The right to physical and mental health
The Ministry of Interior refused to refer Ezz el-Din to psychiatric and orthopedic physicians for an extended period of time before finally permitting him a one-time visit with an orthopedic specialist. In a message to his lawyers dated March 15, 2020, Ezz el-Din complained of his inability to acquire necessary asthma and psychiatric medications. His family purchased the few medications and medical supplies that eventually reached him.
[Article 18, 55, Egypt's Constitution; Article 14 (4) Arab Charter on Human Rights; Article 25 (1), UDHR; Article 12 (1), ICESCR; Principle 9, Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners; Principle 24, Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment]
- The right to communicate with the outside world, particularly with family
Between March 5 and August 22, 2020, the Ministry of Interior has banned family and lawyer visits and communications with the prisoners, including Ezz el-Din.
[Article 38, Egypt's Prisons Organization Law No. 396 of 1956; Article 54, Egypt's Constitution; Article 21, Arab Charter on Human Rights; Article 12, UDHR; Article 17 (1, 2), ICCPR; Principle 19, Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment; Rule 37, 39, 79, 92 Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners]
- The right to education and self-development
Despite granting Ezz el-Din's lawyers permission to supply academic books, the Tora Prison's authority has impeded access to these books, preventing the detainee from writing his master's thesis.
[Article 31, Egypt's Prisons Organization Law No. 396 of 1956; Article 41 (1), UDHR; Article 17 (1), African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; Article 13 (1, 2 c), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC); Article 26 (1), UDHR; Article 10 (3), ICCPR; Rules 65, 66 (1), Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners]
Officials involved in Prosecution and Detention
- Hamada al-Sawy, General Prosecutor of Egypt
Prosecutor al-Sawy neglected to investigate the petitions and pleas submitted by Ezz el-Din's family and lawyers concerning his enforced disappearance, unlawful detention, torture, and deteriorating health in prison.
- Khaled Diaa el-Din, First Attorney General of the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP)
All SSSP decisions permitting and extending the unlawful pretrial detention of Ezz el-Din list Prosecutor Diaa el-Din.
Lawyers specializing in SSSP cases told DAWN that the SSSP issues all of its decisions in the name of the First Attorney General instead of the names of the interrogators or prosecutors who question the defendants.
- Moataz Khafagy, Head of the Second Terrorism Circuit of the Giza Criminal Court
Khafagy extended Ezz el-Din's unlawful pre-trial detention on May 5 and June 2, 2020 even though no evidence was presented to establish any of the statutory conditions for pre-trial detention as stipulated in Article 134 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure. The absence of the reasons for his decisions to extend Ezz el-Din's remand detention violated Article 136 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure which stipulates: Before issuing a detention order, the investigating judge must hear the statements of the Public Prosecution and the defense of the accused. The detention order must include an explanation of the crime attributed to the accused, the penalty prescribed for it, and the reasons upon which the order is based. The provision of this article shall apply to orders issued to extend pre-trial detention, in accordance with the provisions of this law.
Khafagy's decision to extend Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention without bringing the defendant to the court or hearing his lawyer's defense plea violated Articles 136 and 143 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure, stipulating that "before issuing a detention order," the investigating judge must hear "the statements […] of the defense of the accused," and that "extending remand detention" must be preceded by hearing "the statements of […] the defendant."
Mohamed Sherin Fahmy, Head of the First Terrorism Circuit of Cairo Criminal Court
Fahmy extended Ezz el-Din's unlawful pre-trial detention on July 19 and August 24, 2020, without giving him or his lawyer an adequate chance to be heard, even though no evidence was presented to establish any of the statutory conditions for pre-trial detention as stipulated in Article 134 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure. The absence of the reasons for his decisions to extend Ezz el-Din's remand detention violated Article 136 of Egypt's Code of Criminal Procedure which stipulates:
Before issuing a detention order, the investigating judge must hear the statements of the Public Prosecution and the defense of the accused. The detention order must include an explanation of the crime attributed to the accused, the penalty prescribed for it, and the reasons upon which the order is based. The provision of this article shall apply to orders issued to extend pre-trial detention, in accordance with the provisions of this law.
Fahmy postponed the session to decide on the extension of Ezz el-Din's pre-trial detention on May 17, 2020, apparently without regard to the previous detention extension order by Judge Khafagy.
- On July 16, 2020, some members of the European Parliament sent letters to presidents of Egypt, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Guatemala, Peru, the Philippines, and Turkey to demand the release of human rights defenders, activists and human rights lawyers, including Ibrahim Ezz El-Din.
- On August 24, 2020, UN human rights experts highlighted the case of Ezz el-Din as one of imprisoned human rights defenders in Egypt whose health have been put in grave risk through "Lengthy and unnecessary pre-trial detention" during the COVID-19 pandemic. The experts denounced the denial of the right to a fair trial in the country and demanded that "Egypt must release imprisoned human rights defenders and recognise the vital role they play in society."