Egypt court extends detention of ‘tortured’ teen

Court delays Mahmoud Hussein’s pretrial hearing for the 25th time, stretching his imprisonment to at least 712 days.

mahmoud hussein
A photo circulated on social media showing the T-shirt Hussein was wearing when arrested, reading 'A nation without torture' [Twitter]

A teenager imprisoned in Cairo nearly two years ago after being accused of a number offences, including “protesting illegally”, will be detained for at least 45 more days after an Egyptian court issued another detention renewal. 

On Tuesday, a judge decided that Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein should remain in pretrial detention longer, having already postponed his hearing by one day – making it the 25th time his detention has been renewed.

RELATED: Call for Egyptian teen’s freedom grows as hearing nears

Hussein was arrested on January 25, 2014, when he was 18 years old.

Back then, he was walking home from a peaceful demonstration to commemorate the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution when he was detained while wearing a protest scarf and a T-shirt which read: “A nation without torture” at el-Marg checkpoint in Cairo.

Police accused Hussein of illegal protesting, getting paid to protest, possessing Molotov cocktails, and belonging to a “terrorist” organisation.

But in the 22 months that Hussein has been in detention, he has not been formally charged or tried for any crimes.

Since his detention, the now 19-year-old Hussein has faced near-automatic detention renewals, at least 22 of which were decided in his absence from the courtroom. Hussein was present for his hearing on Tuesday.

Rights groups say that following his arrest, he was subjected to at least four hours of beatings, received electric shocks to the back, hands and testicles, and was forced to falsely confess.

‘Treated as a threat’
“Today’s decision to extend Mahmoud’s pretrial detention signals that little has changed in Egypt, and that independent voices and peaceful protesters – even ones as young as 19 who just want to see the abolition of torture in their country – are treated as a threat to the state,” Wade H. McMullen Jr, managing attorney at the US-based Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group, told Al Jazeera.

“The fact that Mahmoud has now been detained for 667 days without ever having a criminal charge brought against him indicates that the only criminals in this case are the government officials that are keeping him locked up.”

McMullen Jr added that the group has filed Hussein’s case before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – the body with the authority to determine whether his detention was arbitrary and violated Egypt’s international legal obligations.

Meanwhile, a petition by Amnesty International demanding Hussein’s immediate and unconditional release has gathered 145,000 signatures from 138 countries.

Follow Anealla Safdar on Twitter:  @anealla 

Source: Al Jazeera