- Middle East/North Africa
Al-Masry Al-Youm spent three hours Wednesday night in a Muslim Brotherhood torture chamber at the presidential palace. The central chamber was located at the gate of the palace in front of Omar bin Abdel Aziz Mosque on Merghany Street. The chamber was cordoned by iron barriers and Central Security Forces, who only allowed this reporter access after a colleague from Misr 25 satellite channel, owned by the Brotherhood, intervened.
Police officials in uniform were present inside the chamber, as were plainclothes officers from the Nozha police station. Fifteen Brotherhood members were also present, supervised by three bearded men who decided who should be there. They could order anyone out of the room.
Opposing protesters were brought to the chambers after being detained by Brotherhood members, who beat them and tore their clothes. The chambers were informal and it was unclear how many there were; when someone was detained, a chamber would be established anywhere near a building.
The kidnappers would take the detained person’s ID card, mobile phone and money before beginning “investigations,” which included intervals of beating to force the confession that he or she is a “thug.”
The interrogators would then ask their captive why they had taken to the street, if they had received any money for protesting, and if they belonged to Mohamed ElBaradei’s Constitution Party, Hamdeen Sabbahi’s Popular Current or the dissolved National Democratic Party of Hosni Mubarak.
If the detainee denied affiliation, the torturers would intensify beatings and verbal abuse. They also documented the interrogations on a mobile phone camera and contacted the Misr 25 TV channel to name the detainees as thugs.
After a while, a captive would be transferred to a central chamber, where a Brotherhood lawyer would hand his or her ID card and personal belongings to a senior police officer, who was the head of the “investigations department” in the chamber. Some Brotherhood members claimed that they found weapons on the detainees and had handed them over to Nozha police officers.
This reporter heard detainees screaming inside the chamber. One pleaded, “I’m a bearded sheikh… It’s Safwat Hegazy who will restore my rights. I’m a friend of all sheikhs.” A bleeding man cried, “I’m an educated person. I have a car. Do I look like a thug?” A severely beaten detainee, who said he was from Sayeda Zeinab, was accused of being affiliated with former Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour.
Some of the detainees were not able to respond to the questions the Brotherhood interrogators screamed at them because of their physical state. Some were bleeding profusely and severely fatigued, but were not given medical assistance, only offered bottles of water to drink.
The senior police official and other policemen asked the three Brotherhood leaders to help them secure the transfer of 10 detainees to the Nozha police station so they would not be attacked again by Brotherhood protesters outside the chamber. Once a group of detainees was taken away, another was brought in.
Next to the central chamber, another three people were detained inside a security station attached to the palace gate on Ahram Street. This area is not under the control of the Brotherhood, which has handed over these detainees to the police. Other detainees remain in the torture chambers without being transferred to security forces.
There was blood visible on the pavement outside the chambers. Some Brothers covered it with dust to try to hide it, but some of it remained visible.