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Essam Atta

Essam Atta died of torture in Tora Prison on the 25th of October 2011 during his two-year jail sentence following a Military trial that laid charges against him. He was accused of being involved in a fight on the 25th of February 2011 in Al Mokattam. The Egyptian Ministry of Internal Affairs had denied that his death was caused by torture and claimed that his death was due to illness. But, Human Rights sources declared that he was tortured to death by the officers in prison with water hoses—this is also confirmed by Essam’s father.

In his testimony, Mohamed Atta, Essam’s brother, stated that Essam was working as a car furnisher. He used to loiter (?) in front of the buildings of Mokattam where the Armed Forces had arrested him after he was accused of robbing an apartment there and faced a military trial.

His family were unable to visit him for three months after he was arrested due to their challenging financial conditions. Essam later phoned them from prison informing them that he was being beaten and that he had a debt, and was in need of cigarettes since it was the only way of dealing with matters in prison.

His mother had visited him on the 25th of October, along with his fiancé who had said in her testimony that she had came with his mother to visit him in Tora prison, bringing along a sim card that Essam Atta had requested along with some food. During their visit, there was a verbal argument between him and another prisoner, who in turn had spoken to one of the guards who made Essam’s mother and fiancé leave. Following this, they had both heard Essam’s voice, pleading loudly, as if he was being beaten. Later that night, Essam called her from the sim that was delivered to him. He informed them that he was being severely beaten and was bleeding. He said to her that an officer named Nour, who is thought to be on drugs was the reason behind what was happening to him. A short time later, they received a phone call from another inmate, informing them that Essam was transported to Om El-Masryeen Hospital. When his family arrived they were unable to find him. They received another phone call from the prison informing them that Essam was in Al Qasr Al Ayni—they found him in the hospital’s morgue. A testimony by one of the prison inmates, as told by his brother, stated that the prison’s authorities had started beating him and placing a water hose filled with detergent into his mouth until he fell to the floor unconscious. Prisoners swarmed and demanded the authorities to move him to a hospital.

According to the testimony of Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla, one of the directors of Al-Nadeem center for the victims of torture, she was informed of the incident and headed to Zeinhom Morgue. She was shocked to learn that officials had banned anyone from attending the autopsy of Essam Etta’s body despite the fact that it is a legal right for the next of kin to attend the autopsy. Neither Essam’s father, their lawyer, nor Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla were given permission to attend the autopsy.

According to Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla’s testimony, the Forensic Medicine Department didn’t fully cooperate in the murder case: “What I also know is that the Forensic Medicine Department was not cooperative, nor equipped, and that the way they treated Essam’s family was closer to that of police officers than doctors”. Seif El Dawla also added in a report published by one of the Egyptian websites, that the “Drugs rolled in a package” that was claimed to have been collected from Essam’s stomach which they wanted to claim as the cause behind his death, was not one that was taken out of a stomach that produces gastric acids, but rather was a roll that can be described as a clean roll, if not for a few drops of blood that can be produced by a needle injury”.

Essam Atta’s case was closed on the 8th of June 2013 after the Egyptian General Attorney had released an order to put an end to the investigations.

A street march moved from Tahrir to Zeinhom Morgue to demand objective information on the murder, which happened only a few months after the January Revolution. The 25th January Revolution was sparked by, among a number of other incidents, the murder of Khaled Said who was killed with methods similar Essam Atta.