Hassan, a limousine driver from New York, has been imprisoned since January 2018 on charges that he joined an Islamic State affiliate. Hassan has denied the allegations, saying he was in Egypt to visit relatives when he was picked up by security agents. While he was in custody, security forces allegedly beat Hassan, delivered electric shocks and raped him twice, Human Rights Watch said.
Egypt’s government has denied the allegations.
“Khaled Hassan’s prison nightmare is shared by many detainees across Egypt, from Cairo to North Sinai,” Michael Page, deputy director in the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Egyptian authorities have sadly earned their miserable reputation for mistreating prisoners, including denying them safe and sanitary prison conditions.”
Poor conditions in Egypt’s notorious prisons gained attention in June when Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi — who was overthrown in a 2013 military coup and imprisoned — collapsed and died in a Cairo courtroom. His supporters said he had received inadequate medical care in prison for years and, along with United Nations and human rights groups, have demanded an independent investigation into his death.
A State Department official said the U.S. government is “troubled” by the allegations of torture. U.S. officials are closely following Hassan’s case and are in close contact with his family, the official said.
“These allegations are deeply concerning, and we have raised them with Egyptian authorities,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as per protocol. “We urge the Egyptian government to ensure Mr. Hassan and all detainees are treated humanely and their fair trial guarantees are respected.”
Hassan is among more than a dozen Americans — perhaps as many as 18 — being held in Egyptian prisons, according to human rights activists. Although many are facing nonpolitical charges, others are being unfairly held on politically motivated counts or based on flawed trials with a lack of due process.
They include New York businessman Moustafa Kassem, who is accused of trying to overthrow Egypt’s government, and Reem Mohamed Desouky, who was arrested last month for allegedly criticizing the regime of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on Facebook.
Hassan, who is in pretrial detention, tried to kill himself shortly after prison officials denied him a visit from his brother, who was visiting Egypt from the United States, the two human rights groups said, citing Hassan’s relatives.
Prison authorities, the family said, repeatedly denied his brother’s request for a visit, even though Egyptian law allows prisoners in pretrial detention weekly visits from relatives.
Egypt’s government did not respond to a request for comment.
Human rights groups have documented many cases in which prisoners, with no legal justification provided, were not allowed visits from families or a lawyer. About 130 detainees in Tora Prison have been on a mass hunger strike since mid-June to protest the lack of visits, according to Amnesty International.
After his brother was denied permission to visit, Hassan thought he wouldn’t be able to see his young children either, family members told Human Rights Watch and the Freedom Initiative.
According to the El Nadeem Center, an Egyptian human rights group, Hassan’s suicide attempt was the fifth among prisoners in Tora Prison in recent years and the second in two months.
“The Trump administration and the U.S. Congress should press President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to ensure humane treatment for Khaled Hassan and fellow detainees,” Mohamed Soltan, head of the Freedom Initiative, said in a statement. “The ever-expanding list of serious abuses in Egypt’s ghastly prison system should be investigated immediately.”