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Jailed Brotherhood leader's wife decries alleged police assault during prison visit

Wed 25, December 2013 Kategori Middle East
The wife of detained Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltagi has accused Egyptian police of assaulting her during a visit to her husband at Cairo's Tora Prison – a charge denied by security officials.

Sanaa Abdel-Gawwad told Anadolu Agency that prison guards had attacked her and removed her veil following a verbal altercation over new rules governing prison visits.

"We've been prevented from visiting him for over one week now," Abdel-Gawwad said. "We had lined up outside the prison every day for over ten hours but to no avail, until we learned of his hunger strike, when – to our surprise – we were finally allowed to enter."

On Monday, al-Beltagi and other Brotherhood leaders declared a hunger strike to protest alleged mistreatment by Egyptian prison authorities.

The prisoners cited a new system for family visits that would only allow jailed Brotherhood leaders to see visitors through glass dividers and talk to them via phone handsets instead of face-to-face meetings.

"We were surprised by the new system, so we turned down the visit," said Abdel-Gawwad. "And my husband told me that he was on hunger strike because of the poor treatment he's receiving in prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement."

Abdel-Gawwad added that al-Beltagi had also complained that his cell entirely lacked ventilation.

"When I left him, I was in [a state of] shock; we shouted at security officials against injustice and the mistreatment of my husband," she said. "But they forced us into a room and said they would take my son, Anas."

"When I refused to leave my son, a female officer came, assaulted me and removed my veil in the presence of senior security officials, including the prison warden," she added. "She started to beat me to force me to leave my son, but I resisted."

Abdel-Gawwad said she had been held in the room for two hours before a security official entered, verbally abused her and forced her to sign a statement that she had attacked the guard.

Mother and son, in handcuffs, were then taken to a police station where they were held for three hours before prosecutors released them on bail.

Abdel-Gawwad and Anas were both released late Tuesday on bail set at 5,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly $715) each pending investigation into assault charges.

A security official, however, dismissed Abdel-Gawwad's assertions, claiming the pair had attacked guards and tried to foment a riot inside the prison.

"She declined the visit via the glass booths, which have been adopted for visits to Al-Aqrab Prison," the official, who asked not to be named, told.

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