No one understands why the 16-year-old Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed has been kept behind bars for 700 days awaiting trial for writing on his t-shit “A Nation Without Torture” and “January 25” on his scarf.
The young man remained in custody by order of the Interior Ministry for security reasons. He was moved with hundreds of others who have not been given clear charges and dispersed throughout different places of detention, namely the Abu Zaabal prison, the Marg prison, the Tora prison and the Appeal prison.
Ironically, France, which was hit last week by terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, arrested eight suspects, of whom seven were released, while Egypt arrests hundreds of suspects and detains them for months without charges and without them being involved in violence or with terrorist groups.
It is true that Egypt is facing the challenge of terrorism, but this does not mean we should expand the circle of suspicion for more innocent people to sit behind bars.
Mahmoud’s story reminds me of a letter I received about innocent people being detained, among many other grievances. It was from a university professor who did not mention his name. He said he was arrested on campus and detained on 16 charges, including burning two police armored vehicles, assaulting an officer and stealing a weapon. Although his colleagues testified that he was never involved in any violent clashes, he remained in custody for two months.
This story is as old as Mahmoud’s story. Some say the security situation at that time justified such practices, but to continue doing so means we are deepening frustrations and creating an environment for terrorism. It means those frustrated victims would not contribute to any economic or political achievement, as they do not see an alternative to revolutionary action and protest. They are time bombs that would explode after they come out of detention, as they have been severely humiliated.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm