Human rights activist Mohamed Sultan alleges former Prime Minister Hazem el Beblawi oversaw his abuse at the hands of Egyptian authorities.
A former prisoner of the Egyptian regime has filed a federal lawsuit against the country’s former prime minister over the abuses he suffered in captivity.
Mohamed Soltan, 32, spent 21 months in jail after Egyptian security forces massacred upwards of 1,000 pro-democracy protesters during the 2013 Rabaa massacre in Cairo.
The Egyptian-American was shot in the stomach and subjected to abuses such as torture and the depravation of medical treatment.
Prior to his detention, Soltan was working with pro-democracy activists at the Rabaa Square protest camp after the overthrow of Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, by the country’s current autocrat and then-military chief, Abdel Fattah el Sisi.
He was eventually freed in 2015 after pressure on the Egyptian regime from the Obama administration but only after giving up his Egyptian nationality.
Soltan says that Beblawi oversaw his mistreatment at the hands of his jailors. The 83-year-old was appointed prime minister by Sisi in the aftermath of the coup.
A report by the Washington Post said that Beblawi works at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, putting him within the scope of US federal law and possibly accountable under the Torture Victim Protection Act.
The law allows victims to legally pursue perpetrators of abuse irrespective of where the crimes took place.
“As Prime Minister, Defendant Beblawi directed and monitored Plaintiff’s illegal
mistreatment, which could not and would not have occurred without his explicit knowledge,
approval and direction,” the federal lawsuit reads.
Beblawi was also responsible for formalising the dispersal order, which gave Egyptian regime security forces clearance to carry out the massacre.
Sisi would later install himself president through a series of elections, which have been criticised by analysts for being rigged.
Since returning to the US, Soltan has become an advocate for those who remain inside Egypt’s jails.
Abuses within the prison system
After the military coup that overthrew Morsi, tens of thousands of activists, mainly from the president’s Muslim Brotherhood group were swept up in police raids and have been kept in prison since.
The former leader himself was jailed and was handed several death sentences in show trials put on by the Sisi regime.
Morsi died of a heart attack in Cairo’s Tora prison in 2019 after six years of imprisonment in conditions widely condemned by human rights groups.
A UN panel of independent investigators concluded that his circumstances in jail were a direct factor in his passing, and that such conditions threatened the lives of thousands of others.
“Dr Morsi was held in conditions that can only be described as brutal, particularly during his five-year detention in the Tora prison complex,” the UN experts said.
“Dr Morsi’s death after enduring those conditions could amount to a State-sanctioned arbitrary killing.”
While the initial intake into Egypt's notorious prison system after the coup were those who backed Morsi, later arrivals included secular civil society activists. The autocratic system that has developed under Sisi leaves any form of criticism liable to arrest and imprisonment, often without due process.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that children as young as 12 have been subjected to torture inside Egyptian prisons.
The organisation further warned that the coronavirus pandemic risked the lives of those living in already unsanitary and unsafe conditions within Egypt’s prison system.
HRW’s Amr Magdi wrote: “The coronavirus pandemic is another reminder that it is long overdue for the government to open prisons for inspection by independent local and international organisations, including the International Committee of Red Cross, rather than farcical, staged visits, such as the one recently arranged by the government, showing prisoners enjoying barbecue.”