Press conference
Caught up in the clashes between opposition protesters and Muslim Brotherhood loyalists outside the Presidential Palace ‘El-Itehadeya’, 19-year-old Shady Hussein, who covers his eye with a bandage, says that he received 106 birdshot pellets in different parts of his body by President Morsi’s supporters, one of which is still in his left eye. © Lamia Hassan
Press conference
Last updated: April 29, 2013

Egyptian protesters recount stories of torture and arrests at the Presidential Palace

Banner Icon The clashes on December 5 were the most violent since Morsi became president. Your Middle East's Lamia Hassan has caught up with some of the narratives from that night.

Caught up in the clashes between opposition protesters and Muslim Brotherhood loyalists outside the Presidential Palace ‘El-Itehadeya’, 19-year-old Shady Hussein, who covers his eye with a bandage, says that he received 106 birdshot pellets in different parts of his body by President Morsi’s supporters, one of which is still in his left eye.

“There were showers of rocks flying over us and we heard gunshots, but we couldn’t tell if they were live shots or birdshot pellets,” said Hussein. “Then I got injured.”

In a press conference under the name of ‘Testimonies from El-Itehadeya’, opposition protesters told stories of torture and detention in the hands of Muslim Brotherhood loyalists during the bloody December 5 clashes that left hundreds injured and eight people dead. The conference was moderated by Dr. Aida Seif Al-Dawla, doctor at El-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and professor of psychiatry at Ain-Shams University.  

“We expected that when this group came to power, the amount of torture and oppression they have been through in their life will prevent them from doing the same to others,” said Al-Dawla. “But, in the first chance they had, they transformed one of the rooms of the presidential palace, which they say is a symbol of the state’s sovereignty, into a torture chamber.”

Hussein is one of the victims of the rival clashes between Morsi supporters and the opposition outside the Presidential Palace on that day.

“I had to go through four hospitals, until the fifth one let me in,” said Hussein. “By that time, I started to feel that I was losing sight in my left eye.”

Hussein said that the he was carried to the nearest hospital, which refused to let him in after finding out that he was hurt in the clashes. He said the same goes for Demirdash Hospital where they told him at the entrance that they were closed, and then Zahraa Hospital who directed him to the Italian Hospital.

“When the people at Italian Hospital let me in and made me lie on a trolley and started to push me, I assumed that they were taking me to the operation room, but I was shocked to find them pushing me out of the hospital and stopping a cab for me,” said Hussein. “Finally, Ain Shams Hospital let me in after that and helped me and said my condition was fine, but after leaving them I decided to stop by the International Eye hospital, who said that my situation was very critical.”

While Hussein was shot and carried away from the scene right away, there were others who were kept for hours in the custody of the Brotherhood loyalists.

Shady Basiony, an activist originally from Kafr-El Sheikh who moved to Cairo because of the January 25 revolution, was present during the clashes but eventually kidnapped from the palace area in a car and remained blindfolded the entire time.

“I couldn’t tell where I was taken or who kidnapped me, but I heard sounds of people tortured in a nearby room and I heard every now and then the sound of a whip,” said Basiony. “I tried to figure out what time it was from the call to prayers I heard while locked in there.”

Basiony said that he was kept in custody for a day. “I heard the call to Duhr prayer when we were leaving the area where they kept me, and by the time we arrived at Al-Falaki station, I heard the call to A’asr prayer, meaning that we almost took two hours on the way, but I couldn’t see anything as I was blindfolded.”

Among the opposition protesters who were present at the conference was Yehia Negm, a former diplomat, who had problems with the Mubarak regime and was dismissed from his position in 2005 and stripped from his passport, including any documents that would allow him to enter Egypt again.

“When the revolution happened, I filed a request to return because I thought things now changed, and I managed to return almost one year ago, but after what I saw last week, it doesn’t seem like it really changed,” said Negm. “It seemed more like the Nazis’ concentration camps.”

Negm said that the Muslim Brotherhood loyalists managed to arrest him while he was trying to run when they attacked, but because of a foot injury, he couldn’t get away from them.

“I was severely injured and they left us there with hands tied and leave us to die like this on the ground, and by the morning there were 49 of us lying on the ground severely injured and tortured,” said Negm. “There was also a female doctor from their side who was treating us harshly and kicking us while we were lying there.”

Most of the protesters who came to the conference to testify on what happened that day had bruises on their faces or bandages.

Ramy Sabry, a pharmacist and an activist who was arrested by the Brotherhood protesters and was tortured, verified Negm’s story about the female doctor. He also added that there was a male doctor who tried to treat them kindly, but when he failed to do that, he left the scene.

“I was tortured for 10 minutes continuously with wooden sticks, metal rods and a sharp-edged tool,” said Sabry. “They pointed out…the fact that I am Chrisitian.”

Activist Ola Shahba, who was kept most of the time inside a kiosk that belongs to the military police, said that she thought it would give them a better position if she adressed the people who arrested them because she fought on their side when they were oppressed by the former regime.

“I didn’t want Ramy to deal with them because I was afraid of the sensitivity of the situation because he’s Christian and there might be a sectarian issue,” she explained. “But, the fact that I am a female didn’t help at all; I was arrested and was sexually harassed and there were police officer who present during the arrests.”

Shahba said that the first thing they did when they arrested her is that they checked her wrist to see if there is a cross on it or not.

Shabha was not the only female who was there to give her testimony. Rania Mohsen, who was there as well when the Brotherhood loyalists first attacked, said she saw them tearing down a tent, where a woman and her eight-year-old son were sitting. Mohsen said the boy tried to stop them so one of the men kicked him in his stomach.

“I went and tried to argue with them that this is very inappropriate and they know nothing about religion,” said Mohsen. “I was pushed to the wall, was slapped on the face, spat on and grabbed from my scarf, and one man said: ‘infidels don’t wear headscarf’.”

In the press conference, the opposition protesters vowed to expose the other side’s lies, as the Brotherhood leaders and loyalists claimed that the opposition were paid thugs and had weapons.

In his speech on December 6, President Mohamed Mursi repeated these words, claiming that investigations indicated that the protesters had been paid thugs. However, human rights activists and lawyers who accompanied the protesters said that the investigations was still about to start at that time.

On December 12, the Prosecutor General ordered that the deputy prosecutor, who supervised the investigations with the protesters and set them free, be transferred to the quieter city of Beni Suef. But, the decision was revoked after prosecutions in many provinces rejected that.

The protesters who were present to give their testimonies were clearly pointing their fingers to the Muslim Brotherhood and the leaders of some of the Islamist political groups, holding them accountable for the detention, torture and injuries.

Although he wasn’t able to identify his kidnappers, Basiony said that when he was set free he filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General against the Muslims Brotherhood leaders who called their people to attack the opposition’s sit-in in El-Itehadeya.

“They sent their people to break a peaceful sit-in, and the fact that when the police retreated the night before, we guarded the palace and no one went in, is a great indication that we are peaceful,” said Basiony.

As for Shahba, she said that all the people who addressed her while she was there mentioned their full-names and positions, as if they thought she will never leave this place, but now she’s out and know their names.

Also, Sabry said that a Muslim Brotherhood leader in Al-Sharqiya province, who identified himself as Alaa Hamza, supervised the detention and torture. He also said that he saw this man putting birdshot pellets, chains, bottles used as Molotov cocktails, and other weapons in a box and handed them to the police and said that they found these weapons with the opposition protesters.

The press conference, which took place at the Press Syndicate, had a sad ending as it coincided with the funeral of the deceased journalist El-Hoseini Abu Deif, who was shot in the head during the clashes.

Lamia Hassan
Lamia is a Cairo-based freelance journalist and a regular contributor to Your Middle East. In 2011, she won the CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the Year award for her investigative article "Washed Up".
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