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Since July 2013, when Egypt’s military, led by Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, overthrew Mohamed Morsy, the country’s first freely elected leader and a high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood member, the Egyptian authorities have engaged in a widespread campaign of arrests targeting a broad spectrum of political opponents.Between Morsy’s overthrow and May 2014, Egyptian authorities arrested or charged at least 41,000 people, according to one documented count, and 26,000 more may have been arrested since the beginning of 2015, lawyers and human rights researchers say.
Though the Interior Ministry lifted the blanket visit ban in August 2015, the authorities continue to regularly and arbitrarily deny visits, whether by relatives or lawyers, and to limit their length to around five to ten minutes.
The near total lack of independent oversight in Scorpion, documented in this report, has exacerbated these abuses and contributed to impunity.
Though detainees have alleged serious abuses at a number of prisons, many of which hold political prisoners – such as Borg al-Arab in Alexandria, where Morsy is confined – Scorpion has re-emerged as the central site for those deemed enemies of the state, a designation that now includes the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Sisi’s primary political opposition.
Relatives believe that Scorpion’s four “H-blocks,” containing 320 cells, currently hold around 1,000 prisoners, including most of the top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are imprisoned alongside alleged members of the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
Some of those held in Scorpion are not members of any Islamist movement, such as the journalist Hisham Gaafar and the activist doctor Ahmed Said.
The government itself has admitted to making nearly 34,000 arrests.