The Case of the “Victorious Sect”

The Announcement of the “Victorious Sect” Arrests

In a statement issued on April 19, 2006, the Interior Ministry announced that State Security Investigations had detained 22 members of a militant group suspected of planning violent attacks on civilian targets around Cairo.  The Interior Ministry said the arrests were part of SSI efforts to contain terrorism—in the ministry’s words, “to abort any move to form terror organizations, proven over the past period to be posing lethal threats, stemming from their spontaneity and randomness—based on deviant extremist ideas which have nothing to do with the true Islam, and in response to the fallout from international and regional events.”

Egyptian Interior Ministry Statement, April 19, 2006 (translated by Human Rights Watch):

After months of monitoring and surveillance, the security services detained a group that included 22 elements from el-Zawya el-Hamra, Tora, Helwan, and Ma'adi, that called itself the “Victorious Sect.” It was headed by the accused Ahmad Mohamed Ali Gabr (a.k.a. Abu Mussa'ab), with the assistance of the accused Ahmad Mohamed Bassiouni (a.k.a. Abu Bakr el-Masry), adopting a jihadi discourse stemming from salafi takfiri ideas. The information, documents, and interviews with the above-mentioned confirmed their intention to carry out terrorist operations against tourist targets, and natural gas pipes surrounding Greater Cairo, as well as striking at sensitive locations, by booby trapping. [The group was also planning to] target Muslim and Christian religious figures and what they described as irreligious youth in tourist centers. It has also been confirmed that the leaders of the group were gathering details about making explosive materials from elementary substances. The leaders of this group were trying to buy a piece of land in El-Saff neighborhood in Giza, to use it as a center for training and preparation to carry out their operations. . . . [G]roup leaders contacted foreign elements to help them send [the group's] elements to “jihad locations abroad.” . . . The [police] operations found several computers, CDs, research material, and information on how to manufacture explosive and poisonous substances, in addition to literature by extremist and terror leaders, and phone numbers of foreign elements who were in contact with the accused Ahmad Bassiouni. . . . The Prosecutor is to investigate the case.  [List of arrested suspects follows.]

The announcement included a list of 22 men, and photographs of most of the men were released to the Egyptian media.

The Alleged “Victorious Sect”

1. Ahmad Ali Gabr, 28, detained February 16, 2006

2. Ahmad Mohamed Mohamed Bassiouni, 27, detained February 24, 2006

3. Yehya Suleiman Ahmad Mohamed, 25, detained February 16, 2006

4. Abdel Aziz Fouad Ali Abdel Maqsoud, 25, detained February 26, 2006

5. Tamer Abdel Nabi Zaki Mohamed el-Haddad, 32, detained on unknown date in       February-March 2006

6. Omar Mohamed Abdel Fattah Ahmad, 26, detained on unknown date in March 2006

7. Mohamed Ahmad Mohamed Sa'id, 27, detained March 1, 2006

8. Rami Abdel Qader Mubarak, 20, detained on unknown date in March 2006

9. Ahmad Mustafa Saber Ahmed, also called Ahmad Shobeir, 22, detained on unknown date in February-March 2006

10. Mohamed Hamdi Abdel Gawad Ibrahim, 23,detained March 1, 2006

11. Mohamed Abdallah Bakri Mabrouk Hassanein, 23, detained March 21, 2006

12. Hani Mahmoud Mohamed Abdallah, 29, detained on unknown date in February-March 2006

13. Goma'a Mohamed Abdel Wahab Mustafa, a.k.a. Waleed, 25, detained on unknown date in February-March 2006

14. Ayman Samir el-Sayyed Hassanein, a.k.a. Ayman el-Abd, 32, detained on unknown date in March 2006

15. Hani Ahmad Mansour Mohamed, 30, detained February 24, 2006

16. Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, 26, detained March 2, 2006

17. Mahmoud Salah Ibrahim Imam, 23, detained March 2, 2006

18. Taha Hussein Sa'ad Mohamed Ali, 29, detained March 2, 2006

19. Mohamed Salah Ibrahim Imam, 24, detained March 3, 2006

20. Nabil Mohamed Mohamed Ali Mustafa, 21, detained March 2, 2006, but taken into custody on March 8, 2006.

21. Mahmoud Abdel Aziz Youssef Mohamed, 26, detained on unknown date in February-March 2006

22. Mahmoud Sa'adi Ahmad Mohamed, 29, detained on unknown date in February-March 2006

The Interior Ministry said the group was called al-Taifa al-Mansura, “The Victorious Sect.” (This name incidentally is similar to that of an Iraqi insurgent group, Jaish al-Taifa al-Mansura, “Army of the Victorious Sect.”)

On April 24, five days after the Interior Ministry announcement, the triple bombing attack occurred in the town of Dahab, on the Red Sea in the Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 18 people.24 The attacks were the first bombings targeting civilians to occur in Egypt since July 2005, when a bombing occurred in Sharm el-Sheikh. (As noted above, a bombing also occurred in the Red Sea city of Taba, a nearby resort, in October 2004.)

In the following weeks, the Victorious Sect arrests and the Dahab bombings were discussed and analyzed in articles by some organizations focused on terrorism issues, including the US-based Jamestown Foundation and the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.25 Commentators analyzed the allegations made in the Interior Ministry statement and drew various broad conclusions about the implications of the arrests. For instance, the Jamestown Foundation discussed the significance of the arrests and the characteristics of the suspects in its April 25 Terrorism Focus newsletter, stating that:

This new group marks the rise of what is known as the third generation of the Salafi-Jihadist movement in Egypt. . . .

[The information in the Interior Ministry’s statement points] to the group’s intention to recruit young men to fight “abroad.” This shows that the rise of this group is connected with the transformation of the Salafi-Jihadist movement. . . . Al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura signifies the birth of a new generation closer to the global Salafi-Jihadist way, and a more ideological movement, which is apparent from the social backgrounds of its members if compared with the members of [Egyptian] jihadist movements in the early 1980s.26

The Actual Arrests

The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced the arrests of the 22 men—the alleged Victorious Sect—on April 19, 2006. The phrasing of the announcement, and statements made to journalists in Cairo that day, suggested the arrests had just occurred, possibly earlier that day or week.

Human Rights Watch found that the men were actually arrested weeks earlier, at various dates in February and early March 2006 and held incommunicado. Human Rights Watch spoke with several detainees’ family members about these arrests, and obtained written and video statements that family members made in April and May 2006, in which they described the arrests and their subsequent efforts to find out what happened to the detainees—all of which took place well before the April 19 announcements.

Ahmed Ali Gabr

Among the first of the 22 men to be arrested was Ahmed Ali Gabr, 27, a student at Banha University who was picked up by SSI on February 16, 2006. (In the April 2006 announcement, Gabr was referred to as the leader of the group.)  Hussein Metwalli, a journalist who investigated the arrests in February and March 2006, learned that Gabr was arrested during a general sweep of young men that occurred in February in various neighborhoods in Cairo, including Kozzika, Lebanon Square, Dar El-Salam, Helwan, and El-Zawya El-Hamra.27

Human Rights Watch spoke with two prisoners, “L.S.” and “H.B.F.,” who were detained in the same prison as Gabr, along with several other of the 22 men, in late 2006. (L.S. and H.B.F. were released from custody in 2007 and spoke with Human Rights Watch in June 2007.) Both said that they spoke to Gabr in detail about his arrest and detention. L.S. told Human Rights Watch that when Gabr was arrested, he had no idea why:

He’s such a poor guy—he had no idea what he’d done, to end up in this situation. Imagine a guy, who’s minding his own business, and he’s married, working in a store, and suddenly he’s arrested and he’s facing charges that would end in the death penalty. He had no idea of what he had done.28

L.S. and H.B.F. said that Gabr, and others among the 22 men, told them that they later guessed that Gabr was picked up after someone else—the name was unknown—gave his name to SSI in early February.29 Another detainee, Yehya Suleiman Ahmad Mohamed, a student at Al-Azhar University, was also arrested the same night.

According to L.S. and H.B.F., Gabr said that at the time of his arrest he was working in a shop with another man named Mohamad Farag.  “[T]hey knew each other and would spend time together,” said L.S. The two men had apparently become friends when Gabr started working in the shop, and they spent some of their free time together. At some point in the year before the arrests, Farag introduced Gabr to another young man named Mohamed Hamdi. (His full name was Mohamed Hamdi Abdel Gawad Ibrahim, and was later among the 22 listed as belonging to the Victorious Sect. Mohamed Hamdi, unlike the other detainees, was from a more affluent part of Cairo—the Lebanon Square neighborhood.) Gabr told the other prisoners that the three of them were all religiously devout, spent time together socially, and met on a few occasions in a larger theology discussion group.30

Gabr told L.S. and H.B.F. that when he was arrested, SSI officers took his phone and papers from his house. Gabr told the two men that SSI officers consulted his mobile phone directory and found Mohamad Hamdi’s name, and that they questioned him about Hamdi.  (Mohamed Hamdi was arrested over a week later, on March 1.)

Mohamad Farag was arrested soon after Gabr. The detainees speculated that Farag’s arrest then led to further arrests, as SSI found contact information for other youth in Farag’s possession. Later discussing the events leading to their detention, both L.S. and H.B.F. said they believed that SSI had found a list of names in Farag’s house, and that the list contained the names of many of the other 22 men who were ultimately accused of involvement in the Victorious Sect, as well as other people arrested around the same time.31 The prisoners posited that SSI consulted this list in deciding whom to arrest, and that the discovery of the list led to the arrests of several other suspects in the El-Zawya el-Hamra neighborhood on the nights of March 1-3, 2006, including Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, 26; Taha Hussein Sa'ad Mohamed Ali, 29; and two brothers: Mahmoud Salah Ibrahim Imam, 23, and Mohamed Salah Ibrahim Imam, 24.32 Human Rights Watch also determined that another detainee, Mohamed Ahmad Mohamed Sa'id, 27, was arrested on March 1, 2006, in the Kozzika neighborhood. (Strangely, Mohamed Farag himself was not included in the list of the 22 men called the Victorious Sect.) As of this writing, however, he was still in SSI custody.

Mahmoud and Mohamed Salah Ibrahim Imam

Mahmoud and Mohamed, mentioned above, were arrested on March 2. Mahmoud and Mohamed’s father, Salah Ibrahim, described the two men’s arrests in an interview in April 2006, stating that SSI officers arrived at 2 a.m. on March 2:

[T]here was loud knocking on the door. My wife asked: “Who’s there?”

“The government,” they replied. . . . They asked if this was the house of Salah Ibrahim. “Yes,” I answered. SSI forces rushed into the apartment, asking about our boys. I pointed to their room. . . . When they went in, they found only Mahmoud sleeping. [Mohamed was at work that night.] They told me: “And you don’t know where your boys are?!” I replied: “The other boy is at his work, at a dairy products shop.”33

SSI forces searched Mahmoud and Mohammad’s room, taking their identification papers. Salah Ibrahim said that the officers then took Mahmoud to the shop where Mohamed worked. Mohamed, however, was not at the shop when they arrived, and they soon returned to their house. Salah Ibrahim explained:

[T]hey didn’t find him there. But they found Mohamed Nasr,34 the son of the shop owner, so they took him, and went back to us, with Mahmoud. . . . [T]hey stormed the flat searching [again] for Mohamed, yet they couldn’t find him.

The officers searched the apartment again and waited inside and outside until past 4 a.m., when they finally left.

Mohamed returned home the next morning, unaware of what was going on. The family then decided that Mohamed would go to the SSI office in Hadayeq el-Qobba to turn himself in. But oddly, when they took Mohamed there, the officers—apparently confused—told them Mohamed was “not wanted.”

Mohamed and his uncle returned home, but the family decided they should return to the SSI office again, for fear that SSI would raid the house again. When they returned to the Hadayeq el-Qobba facility, Mohamed was taken into custody. His father described what happened next:

On the following day, we went to ask about Mohamed and Mahmoud, but we were told neither of them was there, that they were transferred to Lazoghli [SSI headquarters in Cairo]. He [the uncle] went to Lazoghli, but was told no one was there. This pattern kept on being repeated without any purpose, and no one knew where they were, until we found their photos in the media [after the April 19 announcement].

Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad

As noted above, Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, who worked in the same shop as Mohamed Salah, was also arrested the early morning of March 2. His father Ibrahim Awad described how SSI officers arrived after 2 a.m.:

They came to the shop, to ask him about Mohamed Salah. Mohamed Nasr, my son, runs our grocery and dairy products shop [small shops in Cairo are often open throughout the night]. They asked him about Mohamed [Salah]. He answered back saying he didn’t know where Mohamed Salah was. . . . [Then] they came into the apartment. . . They said to me they were State Security.

I said “Welcome, sons,” and I received them politely, and I even asked them if they wanted Pepsi or anything to drink. . . . They searched the flat, but they did not find anything. . . . They asked him [Mohamed Nasr] if he had a library. He said “No, I don't have a library.” . . . And they did not find a library, just some prayer booklets. . . little booklets of prayers which are sold by beggars on the microbuses for quarter of a pound. We still have some left inside.35

Mohamed’s brother Tarek confirmed this account: “They only found some booklets of azkar [prayers or religious devotions].”36 Both Tarek and his father Ibrahim Awad said the SSI officer appeared disappointed, as the books were merely typical booklets with simple prayers.37 Tarek also confirmed that when SSI arrived, they were primarily looking for Mohamed Salah, not Mohamed Nasr, and appeared to be fishing for general information without clearly knowing what they were after:

We were expecting trouble. State Security had been rounding up people day and night in the neighborhood before Mohamed’s arrest. . . . They asked Mohamed about his friends’ houses [where they were]. They did not seem to know who they were after.38

Mohamed Nasr’s family said that SSI officers left with Mohamed, and that he then essentially disappeared; the family heard nothing from authorities for almost two months, when the April 19 announcement of the arrests was made. Tarek and other family members went to the Hadayeq el-Qobba SSI bureau multiple times to ask about his fate, but SSI officials told them that Mohamed Nasr and other detainees were not there, but in the Lazoghli SSI headquarters. “But when we went to Lazoghli,” Mohamed’s father said, “They said they were in Hadayeq el-Qobba, and so on.”39 The family also said that a friend of Mohamed Nasr’s was also arrested the same night as he was: Mahmoud Sa'adi Ahmad Mohamed.

Zakariya Noshi Nosran, a Coptic Christian neighbor of Mohamed and his family, was surprised by the arrests. He told attorneys that he did not think it was possible that Mohamed or the others could be involved in any plot:

I trade with him as a Christian, and there were never problems. I knew him as an honest, good merchant. Always smiling. He was never bad, he never did anything wrong. When I heard about this [the arrest], I was so surprised. Muslims and Christians live here without problems. No one [from SSI] came to ask me any questions about Mohamed. There were no investigations.

Mohamed was very friendly. He was not an extremist. I know what an extremist is. I wouldn’t have dealt with him if he was an extremist.

Emad Ezzat Labib, another Coptic Christian neighbor, who owns a bag-making workshop near Mohamed Nasr’s home and is a friend of Mohamed Nasr’s father, told attorneys and journalists in April 2006 that he thought the allegations against Mohamed were fabricated. Labib said he was surprised that Mohamed was among those arrested.

I looked at the accusations that they were planning to kill Christian figures. These cannot be true. I know these people. They are not extremists. . . .

I don’t understand much about politics. But I know there's something wrong here. They can’t be extremists. . . . If I tried to remember one sectarian thing they might have done, I couldn’t find one.40

The Interior Ministry’s statement about the Victorious Sect said the arrests took place after “months of monitoring and surveillance.” However, the manner in which many of the men were arrested suggested that SSI had little knowledge of who the men were before their arrests. For instance, when officers came to arrest the detainee Mohamed Salah Ibrahim Imam at his home (see above), he wasn’t there; officers were unaware of where he worked and only visited the store where was employed after his family told them where it was. Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, another man who also worked at the store, appears to have been arrested solely because he was at the store when SSI arrived. Also, more notably, when Mohamed Salah, the day after Mohamed Nasr’s arrest, tried to turn himself in at a SSI facility, officers turned him away, and only detained him later, when he returned to the facility a second time.  

In June 2006, Mohamed Nasr and his friend Mahmoud Sa’adi were released from SSI detention. Human Rights Watch approached them in June 2007, but they did not wish to speak to us about their experiences.

Taha Hussein Sa’ad

Taha Hussein Sa’ad was arrested on March 2 at his father's house in El-Zawya el-Hamra.41 Taha’s father said SSI showed up at 5 a.m.:

They knocked on our neighbor’s door downstairs and asked her where Taha’s apartment was. She said upstairs, so they came here. This means they did not even know where Taha lived. [The announcement in April said that State Security had been monitoring the group for months.] They knocked on the door. We were asleep. They came in and asked Taha: “Are you Taha?” He said yes, so they took him.

Taha’s mother said that when Taha’s uncle, who lived in another apartment in the same building, opened his door to see what was going on, SSI officers “warned him to get inside again, telling him ‘we’ll take you with us.’”

Taha’s father said:

From that moment, we did not know anything about him, until we were surprised by his photo [in late April 2006] —when in fact they had been detained for around 52 days before the date announced in the newspapers and TV.

Asked by attorneys why the family didn’t take any public action after the arrest, Taha’s father said:

We were tricked. They kept on telling us they'll be released after a couple of days, after another couple of days, so we did not want to make a fuss. . . . We went to State Security after his arrest and we took clothes and food. They accepted them. This means he was inside. The same clothes we gave him were the ones he appeared in, was wearing, in the photo [i.e., the photo released when the group’s arrest was announced in April 2006].

Taha was later released, in mid-2006, but after his release, neither he nor his family would discuss his arrest or detention in any detail. Taha told Human Rights Watch:

There is no use for us to talk about this subject. It’s over. We want to turn the page. . . .

We understand State Security has to take some actions sometime to protect the country. It’s the country’s national security. This is no joke. A State Security officer sat down and explained the whole issue to me while I was in custody. They [SSI] have to take care of 70 million Egyptians. It’s not an easy job. They must do some things, sometimes, which are beyond our comprehension.42

Ahmad Mohamed Bassiouni and other detainees

Just before SSI detained Ahmad Ali Gabr, Mohamed Farag, Mohamed Hamdi, and the other detainees noted above, another set of arrests occurred in the Cairo neighborhoods of Kozzika, El-Zawya El-Hamra, and Tora el-Balad, during the last week of February.

Around February 24 to 26, SSI officers arrested Ahmad Mohamed Bassiouni, a young imam from El-Zawya el-Hamra, later accused of being the second-in-command of the Victorious Sect; as well as Hani Ahmad Mansour Mohamed, a young salesman; and Abdel Aziz Fouad Ali Abdel Maqsoud, an engineering student; among other detainees.

Bassiouni was arrested on February 24. “I.K.B.,” a family member, told attorneys that SSI went to Bassiouni’s mother’s house first (his father passed away years ago):

They verbally abused her . . . they pushed her with their hands. They searched the flat. They asked her where Ahmad lived and took a neighbor’s son to guide them to Ahmad’s house—which contradicts what they claimed later about monitoring him for three months; they should have known his house by then!

[When they arrived,] State Security men took [Ahmad] from his home, in front of his helpless wife, to whom he was married for six months. She was pregnant. They took his papers and belongings.43

Hussein Metwalli, the journalist who investigated the arrests in April 2006, spoke with Bassiouni’s wife after the April 2006 announcements. According to Metwalli, she confirmed I.K.B.’s account of the arrest and said she had received no word of her husband for several weeks after the arrest, and that she was very anxious:  “She used to call me a lot after the arrests to find out if I’d heard anything.”44

As noted above, Hani Ahmad Mansour Mohamed was arrested the same day as Bassiouni. Hani’s family said that Hani was arrested at 4 a.m. on February 24, and that SSI agents took him out of their house “in his underwear”:

In the street, they beat him up severely, to the extent that some residents tried to intervene, only to be verbally abused [by SSI agents]. . . . They took some booklets, a [computer] hard disc which had some scientific lessons, and cartoon movies and soap operas [DVDs].45

Hani’s parents had no idea where their son was taken and didn’t hear anything about his fate for almost two months:

We tried to find him, but we could not, until we were surprised by his photo among this alleged group [i.e., a photo among those released by the Interior Ministry on April 19, 2006, over a month and a half later].

Hani was among the few detainees released in the summer of 2006. When Human Rights Watch approached Hani in June 2007, he—like Taha, the former detainee mentioned above—was unwilling to discuss his experience in any detail:

I’m out, thank God, and I do not want to talk about this issue again. I do not want to get the ones who are still inside in trouble. If we speak to the media that could harm them. These are our friends from the neighborhood.46

Hussein Metwalli, the journalist who investigated the arrests in 2006, spoke with Hani when he was released in mid-2006. Metwalli said that Hani was afraid to talk openly and reluctant to discuss the details of his detention; however, he did provide details about his mistreatment in detention (see next section for more detail).

The Remaining Detainees

Other young men were arrested around the same time in the Cairo neighborhoods of Kozzika, El-Zawya El-Hamra, and Tora el-Balad. Besides the 12 men whose arrests are described above, Human Rights Watch was told by families and attorneys that several dozen other men were arrested in these neighborhoods. These include ten who were among the 22 men whose arrest was later announced on April 19, 2006, and numerous others whose names were not on the list. Human Rights Watch was unable to determine the exact date of arrest of most of the ten other men on the list of 22. The family of one these men, Mohamed Abdallah Bakri Mabrouk Hassanein, 23, said he was detained on March 21, 2006. The family of another, Nabil Mohamed Mohamed Ali Mustafa, 21, said he was taken into custody on March 2, 2006. However, for the eight others, family attorneys were only able to provide approximate arrest dates. The eight other men were:

  • Tamer Abdel Nabi Zaki Mohamed el-Haddad, 32
  • Omar Mohamed Abdel Fattah Ahmad, 26
  • Rami Abdel Qader Mubarak, 20
  • Ahmad Mustafa Saber Ahmed, also called “Ahmad Shobeir,” 22
  • Hani Mahmoud Mohamed Abdallah, 29
  • Goma'a Mohamed Abdel Wahab Mustafa, also called “Waleed,” 25
  • Ayman Samir el-Sayyed Hassanein, also called “Ayman el-Abd,” 32
  • Mahmoud Abdel Aziz Youssef Mohamed, 26

Speaking with Detainees and Families: A Culture of Fear

Human Rights Watch made extensive efforts to speak with families of the 22 detainees in June and July 2007, to learn about the arrests and the families’ communications with the detainees.

The majority of parents we reached were unwilling to speak in detail with Human Rights Watch out of fear that it could lead to retaliation against their children or harm their chances of release. Several family members flatly refused to speak, while others said they wanted to complain about their children’s detention and alleged mistreatment, but not while their children were still in custody. For instance, S.B., the mother of one of the detainees, told Human Rights Watch:

My son is currently in [name withheld] prison. . . there are seven boys who are currently now in Lazoghli. They received release orders from the prosecutor, and we are hoping they get released this time. We don’t want to speak now or make a move, so as not to jeopardize them.47

Said Shehata, an attorney for several detainees, explained why families were unwilling to speak with Human Rights Watch:

They are too scared to talk. They are scared for their kids. They think that if they speak, their kids are not going to be released. They’re just too scared. They visit the detainees, and State Security tells them that their children will be released, but that if they file a complaint, they won’t be. So, for instance, a family will initially want to file another complaint, asking for release, but then State Security tells them not to, and so they don’t.

But then the kids don’t get released. The families don’t realize that the State Security officers are manipulating them.48

Ayman Okail, another attorney who represented several of the 22 detainees in 2006, told Human Rights Watch that detainees’ families told him about threats and intimidation from SSI officers:

Some of the parents told me that State Security took them separately and told them: “If you approach human rights organizations, you will never see your sons again.”

We tried to convince them that this was a mistake, and that they will not see their sons anyway, “So please,” we told them, “Please give us a chance to advocate on their behalf.”49

Okail said that parents would often stop talking to attorneys after SSI talked to them: “One day the parents would want our help,” he explained. “The next day they would yell at us, telling us we’re making trouble.”

For example, the mother of one of the detainees, [name withheld], told me that a State Security officer threatened and intimidated her not to talk to attorneys.

First she had wanted my help. She talked to me. But then she told me that a State Security officer promised her that [her son] would be released, if she kept quiet. And of course she believed him.

So she told me she didn’t want to talk to me anymore. “I don’t want to cause any problems,” she said.50

Adel Mekki, another attorney familiar with SSI practices and with extensive experience representing SSI detainees, said that when Egyptians are arrested by SSI, their families generally are afraid to seek help or publicize their concerns:

The families exist in this culture of fear of State Security. They believe that by remaining silent, they help their children. So we have this problem. Sometimes they just won’t give us the power of attorney, or agree to allow us to file a complaint. But we try to reason with them, and provide examples of how we’ve helped others in the past. But still, sometimes they just won’t talk.51

A.K.M., a human rights lawyer who works with families who have had relatives detained by SSI, agreed: “People are very scared, all the time. Fear has become normal.”52

Mohamed Hashim, an attorney familiar with SSI practices, added:

Of course they’re scared. They’re in State Security detention. The officers don’t just pat them on the shoulder when they’re in there and tell them everything’s going to be all right.53

Detention, Torture, and Confessions

Former detainees held with the 22, attorneys for the detainees, and detainees’ family members have alleged that the men were severely tortured during the first weeks of their detention.

Human Rights Watch faced several obstacles in assessing what happened to the 22 men after their arrests. Besides the reticence of families, who feared that talking publicly would cause problems for their children, the detainees who were released, with one exception, did not want to speak about their experiences, apparently from continuing fear of SSI. In addition, the Egyptian government did not respond to our written requests for information or to meet to discuss the arrests or the events surrounding the purported confessions of the 22 men. (The Egyptian government has never permitted Human Rights Watch to visit Egyptian prisons to speak with detainees or convicted prisoners; repeated requests in recent years to visit Egyptian prisons have received no response.)

Attorneys for the 22 men likewise faced obstacles to speaking with the detainees. None of the men could be visited while in SSI detention in February through May 2006, during the period of their interrogation: it is impossible as a general matter for outside observers or attorneys to visit SSI interrogation facilities. The only opportunity attorneys had to speak with detainees was when the detainees were brought to the State Security prosecution office for hearings at various times in June through September 2006. Even after the detainees were transferred to prisons, several Egyptian attorneys’ requests were denied or ignored.

Human Rights Watch interviewed or obtained accounts from several men who were detained with the men in late 2006, including “L.S.” and “H.B.F.,” the two detainees mentioned earlier who were held with most of the 22 detainees in an Interior Ministry prison and who were released in 2007.   These sources spoke credibly, with consistency, and in great detail about what they had seen and heard.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed the attorneys for the 22 men, who spoke to the detainees and saw physical evidence of their mistreatment. We also obtained accounts from some family members who were able to speak with their relatives in prison.


Several sources allege that the detainees were tortured during SSI interrogation.

Said Shehata, an attorney for several detainees, saw approximately ten of them when they were brought to the SSI prosecutor’s office in July through September 2006, and he spoke with six during the proceedings. He told Human Rights Watch what learned about their treatment:

I talked to many of them in the prosecutor’s office. All of them were mistreated, at Lazoghli. They were all mistreated at Lazoghli. The ones I talked to, they told me that State Security had handcuffed them behind their back, and lifted up the handcuffed arms behind. Some said they had cigarettes put out on their skin, in sensitive areas.  Some were also subjected to electric shocks. For instance, some told us they were handcuffed to a metal bed, like a hospital bed, but without a mattress, and they’d prop them up [perpendicularly], and they’d run electrical current through the bed, shocking them.

Said Shehata described the case of Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad :

[W]ithout me asking him questions, he starts telling me what happened: that they came to his house, he was arrested, blindfolded. They took him to State Security and he was brought for interrogation.

He was stripped naked. He was handcuffed all the time. And he was on that bed [without a mattress], and he was shocked [with electricity]. He showed me the bruises on his arms, and the burns on his back. The burns were on his upper back. I saw marks: small circles, black or dark marks. . . .

He still had burns on his back, and he tried to show the prosecutor but the prosecutor wouldn’t let him.  He wanted to take off his shirt and show the prosecutor the burn marks on his skin, but the prosecutor refused.  He asked two times, but the prosecutor refused.

Said Shehata said that Mohamed Nasr and the other detainees were blindfolded for almost all of the time they were held in SSI detention facilities.

Shehata talked to five other detainees separately at the prosecution office, including the alleged leader of the group, Ahmed Ali Gabr. The detainees indicated that they had been tortured, and some of them showed Shehata marks on their wrists and burns from cigarettes:

Ahmed Ali Gabr and all the others I talked to were tortured in the same way [as described above]. Ahmed Ali Gabr [the first time he appeared at the prosecution office], he looked like he was going to piss his pants. He was in a white prison uniform. His beard was all grown out.

He had black marks around his wrists. . . . He said he was stripped naked, bound, sometimes hung up. There were electricity shocks and putting out cigarettes in sensitive places.54

Shehata said he was able to observe marks on some of the detainees:

I saw marks on their arms and burns, but not fresh. The problem is, usually when they’re brought to court, it is long enough after they’re mistreated that the torture marks are gone.

Of the detainees, Shehata said that only Mohamed Nasr wanted to tell the prosecutor about abuse:

Mohamed Nasr, in particular, still had some marks and he asked to be inspected by medical staff, and he wanted to show his injuries to the prosecutor—he asked two times—but the prosecutor refused. . . .

Other detainees told me about the abuse, but didn’t want to say anything in front of the prosecutor—the first time. Later, when they became used to the prosecutor’s office, some of them told the prosecutor about the torture. . . .

Most of the guys were really scared and didn’t want to ask for the examination [in court], but he [Mohamed Nasr] asked. He was really relieved that I was in touch with his family, and so he wanted to talk about the abuse and tell the prosecutor. . . .

But a lot of the kids cannot pursue these cases, or don’t want to.  They’re scared.  State Security tells them, “Listen, after you’re taken to the prosecutor’s office, you’re coming back here, so don’t say anything, don’t do anything stupid.”  So they keep quiet.55

A.S., one of the attorneys for two other detainees, said that his clients told him about abuse when he spoke with them during hearings at the State Security prosecution office in June and July 2006:

They told us they were mistreated and tortured. . . . They told us that they were subjected to sleep deprivation, sometimes up to 48 hours of keeping them awake. And they told us that they were beaten up. [Name withheld] told us he was deprived of sleep for 48 hours.56

A.S. suspected that the two were subjected to other physical torture, but said “I think they were embarrassed to talk about it.” In any case, A.S. said that he expected that SSI officers waited until detainees’ injuries had healed:

When detainees are tortured, it’s in the first few months. . . when I saw them, it had been six months since their arrests, and there were no marks or scars. As you know, they [SSI] wait; they wait to bring them, until there are no more scars.

Tarek Nasr, the brother of the detainee Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, told Human Rights Watch that during prison visits he heard allegations of torture from his brother. Tarek said that Mohamed told him about his own torture as well as other detainees’ mistreatment, which he said took place mostly at Lazoghli, during the first weeks of their captivity:

The first time I saw him was in the State Security prosecution office in Heliopolis on the 20th of May. It was a small room, packed with families, police soldiers, and officers. We did not speak about the torture or anything. We couldn’t. I asked him if he was all right and whether he needs anything, and he was asking about our family. That’s all.

But in later visits [to prison], he started telling me bits about the torture. He said that he spent 22 days interrogated and tortured. He was electrocuted in the legs and the sensitive areas, for hours. . . . I saw marks on my brother's legs from electricity.57

Tarek said his brother told him that the other detainees were mistreated as well: “They were all tortured. What do you expect? No one goes into State Security without at least a slap.” Tarek listed some of the allegations his brother told him:

They were all blindfolded inside Lazoghli. . . . They were all beaten up inside, and electrocuted. They were stripped naked, without any clothes. One detainee spent the whole day getting slapped on the face. The whole day he was being slapped, left and right.58

L.S., the former detainee who was held at various facilities with most of the 22 men, confirmed these claims, telling Human Rights Watch about various abuses he heard about from the detainees, as well as about abuse he witnessed while he was held at the Gaber Ibn Hayan SSI facility in Giza, where some of the detainees were taken in March 2006. L.S.’s descriptions of SSI detention were consistent with other detainees’ and attorneys’ accounts and Human Rights Watch considers his information to be credible and balanced. L.S. said that 25 detainees arrived a few days after he did, and that he later learned, from taking to some of those detainees, that most of the 25 were later named as members of the Victorious Sect.59 L.S. explained:

I was arrested March 4 [2006].  I was taken to the facility in Giza. . . . I was not tortured . . . but by “not tortured” I mean I was not given electric shocks or hanging [by the arms]. But it was inhumane. It’s a very bad place. We were handcuffed to the wall at times, and I was blindfolded much of the time. I stayed for four days.

Then they brought about 25 other people. I didn’t see them, they were kept separately. I was separate from them. I was in one cell, with a few people. . . .

All of them were in another cell. I know the room they were held in; I saw it. It is about three by five meters, with no window, no fan, no air, one bathroom. The ceiling is low: you stand up and the ceiling is exactly where your head is. The 25 of them were all stacked together in that one room, very crowded, hot, no air, and of course they would each have to use the toilet in front of the others. Can you imagine, with 25 people? By the time the 25th person is finished with the toilet, the first person has to use it again.

L.S. said that SSI officers were more interested in the 25 detainees than they were in him or other detainees. Since his cell was close to the room in which interrogations occurred, L.S. could hear many of the 25 being interrogated and heard them screaming:

I couldn’t see them most of the time, but I heard them being interrogated. What I heard was not just torture; it was beyond imagination. What I heard, it was so unbelievable, even I came to believe that maybe they were involved in something. I started wondering: for them to be tortured like that they must have been involved in some plot.

You cannot imagine how harsh it was: to hear that, the screaming, how harshly they were tortured. . . .

I heard some of them [the detainees] screaming when they were being electrocuted. I could hear the electricity too, the “zizzzt, zizzzt”. . . .

I heard one interrogator threatening to rape a detainee, and I heard him threatening to rape the wife of the detainee.

L.S. said he was unaware of the identity of the detainees: “I didn’t know who the guys were, at that point,” but that he met many of them in late 2006, when the remaining Victorious Sect detainees were brought to Damanhour prison, where L.S. himself was earlier transferred in mid-2006. When they arrived, they described not only their torture at Giza, which L.S. heard, but also mistreatment at Lazoghli and Nasr City:

I only learned who they were later, when I talked to them in prison, months later. They told me more about the torture. They told me all about it. . . . Every day we’d talk with these guys, from the group.  I was held for four months with them and we talked all the time.  They told us a lot about the torture they suffered. . . .

First, they said they were stripped naked, of course, and for a while they were held out in the hallway, completely naked. Second, electricity, of course, that’s a must, it almost goes without saying. But not just electricity: they said that the officers targeted their most sensitive areas, the genitals. Third, they said they were handcuffed, behind, and then hung up on the top of an open door. [L.S. demonstrates by pretending to be handcuffed with hands behind his back, and motioning the act of being lifted up and placed over the top of a door, arms on one side of the door and the rest of body hanging on the other side.] . . .

Those 25 guys were very badly tortured. Some of those guys told me later that they could smell their own skin burning [during the electroshock]; they said it was disgusting. And they said the State Security officers would pull on their beards very hard, and used matches and set their beards on fire.

L.S. said he heard earlier about abuses that were taking place in the Lazoghli facility during his initial detention in March 2006. While detained in another facility for a brief period before he was sent to Damanhour, L.S. said he saw and spoke with Mohamed Farag, one of the detainees arrested with some of the other 22 men, who was detained at the Lazoghli facility. (As noted in the proceeding section, Mohamed Farag worked in a store with Ahmed Ali Gabr, and although he was not among the 22 Victorious Sect detainees whose detention was announced in April 2006, he was arrested around the same time as Gabr and other detainees.)

According to L.S., when Farag arrived, he said he had just been at the Lazoghli facility with other detainees, and he showed signs of having been badly tortured:

He was in a really bad condition [when he arrived]. His hair was really long, and facial hair, he was very dirty; he was wearing the same clothes he had when he was arrested. When he arrived, he didn’t know where he was, he was in a terrible state. He was really scared—really scared. When he arrived, we heard him asking the guards, in a worried way, “Is there electricity here?”

He said that between interrogations, they had been held in the corridors in Lazoghli, handcuffed, sitting along the wall. He said that the corporals [lower level guards] would walk down the corridor and shock them with something, a stick or something [possibly a handheld device such as a taser, which delivers a low voltage shock].

We helped him clean himself up, get some water, bathe. The guy didn’t know anything about the name of the group, he never said anything about “Victorious Sect,” we only heard that [name] later.60

H.B.F., another SSI detainee held at Damanhour in late 2006 and quoted earlier in this reprort, told Human Rights Watch that he, like L.S., was held in Damanhour in late 2006. There he saw most of the Victorious Sect detainees and spoke with many of them. He spoke in depth to four in particular: Ahmed Ali Gabr, Abdel Aziz Fouad Ali Abdel Maqsoud, Omar Mohamed Abdel Fattah Ahmad, and Mohamed Hamdi Abdel Gawad Ibrahim.61 H.B.F.’s accounts were consistent with those of L.S. and other general accounts of SSI detention, and appeared to be balanced and credible.

H.B.F. said that all four detainees told him about mistreatment they suffered while in SSI detention.

“They tried to look steadfast and they tried to look solid,” said H.B.F., “Because in prison you can’t afford to break down like that, because you’re going to depress everyone around you.” But according to H.B.F., the four detainees said that they’d been severely affected by their experiences and had suffered mental health difficulties, such as sleeplessness, extreme anxiety, and loss of concentration.

H.B.F. said that Ahmed Ali Gabr and Abdel Aziz told him of being stripped, handcuffed, hung up by their arms, and beaten and electrocuted; Omar Mohamed and Mohamed Hamdi said the same. Ahmed Ali Gabr, Omar, and Abdel Aziz told H.B.F. the torture started at the SSI office in Maadi, in southern Cairo, where many of the detainees were taken initially after their arrests.

H.B.F said that Ahmed Ali Gabr told him about being beaten:

He was blindfolded. He was beaten up. I asked him if he was handcuffed or shackled all the time. He said no, the shackles came later at Lazoghli and Nasr City. But at the Tora State Security office he was blindfolded, he received electric shocks, he was beaten up, and of course insulted verbally.62

Later, Ahmed Ali Gabr told H.B.F. he was taken to the Lazoghli SSI facility and then to the facility at Nasr City. H.B.F. explained:

In Lazoghli they stayed in the corridor . . . . Ahmed Ali Gabr said he stayed in the corridor [i.e., he was held in one of corridors of the facility] for 20 to 30 days, just sitting. [Gabr said he was also blindfolded during this time.]

He said they were not allowed to stretch their legs because if they stretched their legs, they were blocking the corridor and the [SSI personnel] would kick their legs back. They were also handcuffed to the wall, there would be iron rings coming out of the door, like you would use for animals like donkeys, and they would be handcuffed to the wall.

In State Security Nasr City headquarters, it is a different story; everyone has his own cell. . . . Ahmed told me that while he was in Nasr City State Security headquarters, he was blindfolded and handcuffed inside his cell and when it was interrogation time, they used to take him and strip him of his clothes. . . .

He said he was also suspended from the ceiling, but since he was blindfolded, he didn’t know exactly the kind of device from which he was suspended. When he was suspended from a door, he’d know that, but there were other times he was suspended from other things, he didn’t know and he couldn’t see; he was blindfolded. In Nasr City, that’s procedure, that’s what happens to everybody. He said if they ask you a question and you say I can’t remember, they suspend you until you remember.

H.B.F. said that Ahmed Ali Gabr and the others described to him severe electroshock torture they endured at the Nasr City facility.

Generally, Ahmed Ali Gabr told him, there were two types of shock, a less severe form of shock for when a detainee was suspended in the air, and a more severe type of shock for when a detainee was pinned to the ground.  Ahmed Ali Gabr told H.B.F. that being shocked while pinned on the ground was far worse:

He told me that he received electric shocks in every part of his body, with special concentration on the genitals. . . . One technique is that actually they make you lie on the floor on your back and they spread your legs and they spread your arms and then they put a chair between your legs, this way, you are forced to keep your legs open and another chair, here, to make sure your arms are like that. And then they electrocute you.63

L.S., the first detainee quoted earlier, also spoke with Ahmed Ali Gabr. “I talked to Ahmed Ali Gabr a lot,” L.S. said. “We shared a cell together for a while.” L.S. told Human Rights Watch that Gabr and the other detainees provided him with details about their abuse in Lazoghli and Nasr City, and the account he gave us was similar to that given by H.B.F. above.

Hussein Metwalli, the journalist who spoke with Hani Ahmad Mansour Mohamed, one of the released detainees, and with many of the relatives who visited the detainees in prison, said Hani Mansour confirmed to him, just after his release in 2006, that he was tortured while in SSI custody, but said he was unwilling to talk about it in any detail.64

Metwalli also spoke with another “Victorious Sect” detainee who was released from custody around October 2007. (The detainee’s name is deleted here at his request, to protect his security.)

The detainee, who was held with most of the 22 others after their arrests in February and March 2006, said that after his arrest he was gathered with other detainees and that SSI “transferred us to Lazoghli for a taste of systematic torture.”65

The detainee told Metwalli that “we were beaten up with fists and sticks, and kicked around.” The detainee said that SSI “used electricity on different parts of the body, including sensitive areas. . . . These sessions of torture were held mainly prior to the announcement of the organization on TV.” The detainee added that another Victorious Sect detainee held with him falsely admitted “that he was a terrorist” immediately after he was shocked with electricity to his penis. The detainee stated that neither he nor the other detainees had any involvement with illegal activities; but said that torture and ill treatment had impacted their appearance and made them look suspicious in pictures that were released to the media:

We were tortured daily until a photographer came and took pictures of us that were broadcast on Egyptian television on April 19, 2006. Of course, our beards were long and our hair looked like Mongols’—we truly looked like terrorists. . . .

Then they took us down to solitary cells, its hallways illuminated 24 hours a day. We could not sleep because of it, and if the lights burned out, we are left in the dark, underground, among the insects. . . .

The detainee’s allegations are consistent with other information gathered about the arrests and detention of the 22 detainees.


Former detainees and attorneys told Human Rights Watch that several Victorious Sect detainees “confessed” while under torture. L.S., one of the detainees later held with the detainees at Damanhour, said:

They told us about how they confessed to everything. There were two types of confession they made under torture: First, just making things up, anything, to answer the questions. . . . They would be asking and asking, and the guys would say they’d say anything, make things up.

Second, they would ask the officers what to say. The guys would say they’d be tortured so bad, they’d be screaming, “Tell me what you want me to say! Tell us what to say and we’ll say it!” They’d agree to confirm anything State Security wanted. It was devastating to hear them talk about this. To tell you the truth, I did not really enjoy listening to them talk about this stuff.66

The detainees told L.S. that SSI officers planted the allegations themselves: “They were fabricating it all, telling them, ‘You have land for training,’ and ‘You have a plot to blow up the pipelines outside Cairo,’ and so on.”

H.B.F., who spoke with the detainees at length, explained in more detail:

State Security, when they torture you under interrogation, they hint at what your answer should be like. They will throw a headline for a subject to the detainee and then torture him to get the details. Like for example. . . [an SSI officer,] he would ask the detainee, the State Security officer would ask: “So what’s the story of the bombings that you were planning to do in this country?” And of course, under torture, the detainee wants this torture to stop, so he wants to say anything that would make this torture stop. And as for the other person, the interrogator, he keeps on pressuring the detainee until the detainee says the story that the interrogator wants to hear.

But then the problem is that when the interrogator finds that the detainee has given him some information about something, he will increase the torture so that he would tell him more details, and elaborate more on the subject.67

H.B.F. said that detainees would sometimes admit to acts that even the SSI officers would find absurd or unlikely. For instance, H.B.F. said, Abdel Aziz—who was short, skinny, and not very muscular—said that he told H.B.F. that he admitted to being the group’s head of physical training, and that SSI officers laughed among themselves after they coerced him to admit this.

H.B.F. said that Ahmed Ali Gabr recounted a similar story, saying that he could not properly fill in the details about his supposed plot:

One of the allegations was about the pipelines that they were going to blow up, and they brought Ahmed Ali Gabr [into interrogation], and they asked him: “So how are you going to blow up the gas pipes?”

Ahmed didn’t know what to say, so he told them we were planning to get a rock and keep on knocking on the pipe until we make a hole and then we were going to get a match and throw it inside the pipe.

And the officer, of course, when he heard this, he cracked up laughing, and said “What are you saying?” [H.B.F. starts laughing.] And then he let Ahmed go [back to his cell].68

The detainees also told H.B.F about how SSI pressed them to confess to the plots that ultimately comprised the allegations made in the April 2006 Interior Ministry statement:

There were also cases where they would bring a detainee and tell him that ”By the way, all of the others confessed, all of the others have confessed to what your group was going to do to the Egyptian museum, so you better confess.” And then they would start torturing them. . . .

There was also another story about the land that supposedly they were going to do some training on. This was another thing that Ahmed said he was being asked a lot about. Like “How did you buy this land? Where did you get it? Where did you get the money from?”

But Ahmed never bought a piece of land. They were telling him: You were planning to start the camp, didn’t you? You were planning to bring recruits and train them on that ground, didn’t you? Another allegation was that they were planning to assassinate Coptic figures. . . .

He told me about how they made him into the leader of the group. They tortured him and mistreated him and made him say that he was the leader, and made him name all his friends and say they were in the group and that they were plotting all those things.69

L.S. said that Ahmed Ali Gabr told him that SSI actually invented the name “Victorious Sect”:

Ahmed Ali Gabr also told me about how the name “Victorious Sect” was chosen. At some point, he said, after all the torture, when the officers were finishing up with him, he was sitting with them, and one of the officers said to him, “So, Ahmed Ali, what would you like to call your group? What name do you prefer—Taifa Mansura [the Victorious Sect], or al-Morabitun[the Sentinels]?” And Ahmed Ali Gabr said he didn’t know what to say, so he said “Victorious Sect.” And so that was the name they gave the group.70

H.B.F. told Human Rights Watch that Ahmed Ali Gabr described the same incident to him, adding that when he first balked at choosing the name, “SSI officers said to him, in an ironically polite manner like: No, no, no—you choose from these names; that will be the name we will give your case. . . . So, in order to just to finish up or whatever, he chose the Victorious Sect name.”71

The Effects of Torture: Ahmed Ali Gabr’s Breakdown

L.S. and H.B.F. both said that, having spoken with many of the detainees, they believed that Ahmed Ali Gabr was tortured more than the other detainees. The two surmised that SSI officers either tortured him extensively hoping to make him admit to being the leader of the group, or they tortured him for longer periods because, under torture, he was more prodigious in admitting to the plots that the officers suggested.

Both L.S. and H.B.F. say they spoke in detail with Ahmed Ali Gabr about how the torture affected his psychological well-being. L.S. and H.B.F. said that Gabr had a nervous breakdown when he was brought to the State Security prosecution office, after months of torture. H.B.F. described what Ahmed Ali Gabr told him:

The State Security prosecutor read out a list of accusations to him; it was long. Then he [Ahmed Ali Gabr] told him that he couldn’t answer back, and he broke down in tears. After he calmed down, he said he asked the prosecutor, “These accusations, if I get indicted under them, what’s going to be the punishment?” And the judge told him, that it’s going to be execution. And when he was taken back to Nasr City, they took him to “the hotel.” [A reference to the nicer detention cells in the top floors of the Nasr City facility, which have beds and air conditioners.] And that’s when Ahmed fell apart, he said that if they take me to “the hotel,” it means that he is basically spending his final days but that “all I care about is I want to tell my family that I’m a good person and I didn’t do anything wrong.”

He told me that his psychological state had gone down the drain; he had been already blindfolded for three months. [Other prisoners told Human Rights Watch that constant blindfolding negatively affected their mental health, causing extreme dizziness and anxiety].

Ahmed Ali Gabr told both H.B.F. and L.S. that he was so upset that he started talking to the pigeons outside his window. As L.S. explained:

He told me that, at this point, he was devastated. The prosecutor had told him he might be facing the death penalty. And he was really messed up from the torture, and didn’t know why all of this was happening. And he’d had no communication with his family, for months. Psychologically, he was devastated. . . . So, he told us, he started to talk to the birds on the window sill outside his room, and ask them to transfer messages to his family. When they brought him food, he would take a little food and put it on the windowsill, for the birds, to make them come.

One day, the food was late, but there were some birds on the sill, and they were making some noise, being noisy. So Ahmed Ali Gabr was apologizing to them, telling them that he was sorry there was no food.

A guard heard him, talking, and opened the door and came into the room, wondering who he was talking to. When he saw that there was no one in the room, and that Ahmed Ali was apparently talking to no one, he went downstairs and told an officer. The officer panicked, and thought the guy had gone insane, this guy is nuts, and so on. And he rushed up to the room and started talking to him, and trying to calm him down.72

H.B.F. heard the same account from Ahmed Ali Gabr.  As he told Human Rights Watch:

The officer summoned Ahmed Gabr to his office. And he was barefoot.  The officer was speaking to him and he had a cup of tea brought to him. . . . The State Security officer tried to calm him down, and he was telling him: “Don’t worry, son, nothing is going to happen to you. Did you do anything wrong? No, you didn’t. So nothing is going to happen to you. Don’t worry, don’t worry, just calm down.”

Ahmed told H.B.F. he couldn’t listen to everything the officer was saying:

Ahmed said that at that time, he was in “a weird state.” The officer brought him a cup of tea and talked to him, but he couldn’t focus at all on what he was saying and what he was doing then. He said he was just looking at his feet, and pouring the tea on his toes and just playing with his toes, and he didn’t know why he was doing this. 

This was his mental state at the end.73

According to HBF, Ahmed learned soon thereafter that SSI was not interested in prosecuting him, and from then on he was not tortured. His mental health improved significantly, he said, and he was able to communicate more normally by late 2006.

Prosecution Dropped

Human Rights Watch was unable to determine why, starting in July 2006, the Egyptian Interior Ministry apparently decided not to prosecute the 22 detainees. During hearing after hearing for the detainees at the State Security prosecutors’ office, from July to September 2006, prosecutors ordered the detainees to be released. By September, all of the 22 detainees had been cleared for release.

Nonetheless, as of December 2007, for reasons that remain unclear, only 12 detainees had been released, and 10 remained in detention. 

According to attorneys, after the release orders in 2006, the first two detainees to be released were Mohamed Nasr and his friend Mahmoud Sa’adi. After that, they say, SSI—utilizing provisions in the Emergency Law—issued new detention decrees in August and September 2006 for the 20 remaining detainees. Since mid-2006, 10 more detainees have been released, but the SSI has kept another 10 men in prison without presenting them again to prosecutors. As of December 2007, the 10 remaining detainees have been in custody without charge for almost two years.

Several attorneys and observers told Human Rights Watch that they believed that the release orders issued in 2006 attested to the detainees’ innocence, and that the men remain in detention only because SSI fears the embarrassment that would accompany their release.

Mohamed Zare’i, a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, said:

Definitely, this case is fictional. The prosecutor could easily have referred the case for prosecution. If they had the smallest suspicion—1/1000th of a suspicion—that these guys were actually guilty of anything, or dangerous, they would have referred the case to court or to a military tribunal. Just by the fact that they did not take legal action against these detainees, this shows that the case is fabricated. . . . It’s not a surprise: obviously State Security didn’t see the guys as dangerous.74

Zare’i did not consider it unusual that persons held under the Emergency Law would be detained indefinitely:

Listen, there are people who have been in custody since 1989 under the Emergency Law, who have been ordered released many times. People stay in prison for years, and some are even forgotten. They [SSI officers] are terrified about their careers.  If a State Security officer released someone, and then the guy turns out to do something, something political, something the government doesn’t like, the officer will be in trouble. Even they, in a way, are afraid.75

Adel Mekki, a human rights researcher familiar with the case, said the same: “A release order is only ink and paper. We’ve had detainees [as clients] with more than 30 release orders, and it doesn’t make any difference.” Mekki agreed with Mohamed Zare’i and said that SSI officers might be embarrassed because a case was not proceeding and wait a lengthy period of time before allowing the detainees to be released. The UN Committee against Torture has noted that in Egypt “many court decisions to release detainees are not enforced in practice.”76

It is not clear why the Interior Ministry gave up on their allegations. Attorneys for the detainees suggested to Human Rights Watch that the Interior Ministry may have fabricated the case for publicity and later decided that the detainees’ prosecution was not necessary, or that, whatever the motives, the case ultimately was simply too contrived even for a court applying Egypt’s draconian emergency law.

The attorneys noted that no evidence was presented against the detainees beyond their own confessions, which, as shown in the preceding section, were likely the result of torture.  Said Shehata, for instance, an attorney for several detainees, argued that the allegations made against the detainees were without detail or substantiation:

The case is fiction, and by God, I don’t know where they got this name Victorious Sect and these aliases. It is clear now that it is fictional. . . .

Plotting to blow up gas pipes?  They didn’t even know where the pipes were, that they were supposedly going to blow up. The Interior Ministry statement doesn’t say where these pipes are either. I have never been given any document or any legal document stating where these supposed gas pipes are. We never saw one shred of evidence against them. We didn’t even hear a description of any evidence, or reference to any sort of evidence backing up the allegations. . . . It’s ridiculous. Take, for instance, Bassiouni: they said he was second in charge [of the group]. Ridiculous. He was an imam, in a mosque, which means he was approved and vetted by State Security. It is impossible he could be engaged in anything illegal, in that position. And the allegation that they wanted to buy land, to use for training—ridiculous.

Most of the kids were very poor, had no money at all, how could they possibly afford to buy land?  This is a typical allegation; they said the same thing about the Wa’ad group [an earlier State Security case, similar to the Victorious Sect case, in which dozens of young men from Cairo were arrested by State Security and later confessed to plotting attacks around Cairo].77

Yet the fact that prosecutors ordered the detainees’ release came as a surprise to some of the attorneys for the detainees. Said Shehata, though he concluded that the case was fabricated, said he was surprised that the Interior Ministry ordered the detainees released:

Initially, when we first started work on this case, we thought that with these allegations, these kids were going to be massacred: we thought they’d be brought before a military court, and be executed in the public square. We thought for sure they’d be put in front of a military court. The government made all these serious allegations, and announced it all to the media.

We were shocked when the State Security prosecutor ordered them to be released, and for most of them it was on their second or third appearances. I myself am confused about this, why they ordered them to be released, and why they haven’t been released. They invented this big case, and they can do whatever they want; why did they end up ordering their release? I don’t know.

Adel Mekki agreed that the release orders were a strange turn of events: the seriousness of the charges led him to expect the men would be prosecuted, even if the allegations were fabricated:

If you read the police report [the Interior Ministry document presented in April 2006], you’re shocked. You might think to yourself: “These guys are going to be executed, for sure.” These sound like serious charges: assassination of Muslim and Coptic figures, destabilizing society, and fomenting extremist ideas. But in reality these sorts of charges have become a cliché with State Security reports. It doesn’t mean anything when they make these allegations.78

Adel Mekki and other attorneys said that there were limits to how far fabricated charges based on confessions could be pursued:

Admissions or confessions are meaningless. They all confess; in virtually all cases, police and State Security, there is a confession. They don’t send cases to the prosecution office without a confession. A confession doesn’t mean anything to a prosecutor, so, in cases where there is nothing but a confession, it’s conceivable the prosecutor might order a release. . . .

Despite all the talk that State Security prosecutors are not independent . . . that they’re part of the system, and so on . . . I’ve found a few cases where a prosecutor has played a positive role in a case. It’s rare, but sometimes it happens. . . . When cases are referred to the prosecution office, he listens to the detainees, and if their stories don’t match the allegations—and all the sensationalist information given to the media—he might refuse to refer the case, in order to save face. . . . In this case, the prosecutors can only have ordered the release if the government did not care about the case anymore. . . . If the prosecutor released them, it was because it was allowed [by the government].

Whatever the situation, one thing is for sure: If the prosecutor decided to release the prisoners, it means there wasn’t a case in the first place. The State Security prosecutor did not refer this case to court; instead, they released the prisoners. This is a catastrophe for the case. It means there isn’t even a shred of factual evidence to support the Interior Ministry’s allegations. If there were any evidence, they would have referred the case for prosecution.79

Ahmad Saif al-Islam, a prominent attorney who deals with SSI detainees, told Human Rights Watch why he thought State Security prosecutors had ordered the detainees released:

It’s not entirely clear, but I think it’s about image. When the police reports are so bad, so messed up, that even they see that the allegations are totally groundless and without any truth, then they might order a release.

It’s not because of their conscience. It’s about their image. If the files are totally bogus, if something is totally wrong with the files, then they might order a release. . . So, no, it’s not conscience, it’s all cold calculation, it’s all about image.80

Mohamed Zare’i made a similar point:

It’s not that the prosecutors are independent. They’re not. Rather, it means that they [the detainees] served their purpose. Everything is for a reason; it’s always for a reason. Whatever State Security wants, they do. If they want to keep them, they will, it doesn’t matter what the prosecutor does.  And if they wanted them referred to court, they would be. If they were released, it was only because they didn’t want them to be referred to court; the case would probably have been an embarrassment. So instead: they order release but send them back to prison, let them be released, but first, let some time pass.81

Ayman Okail, an attorney for some of the men, agreed:

State Security prosecutors aren’t independent, they are part of the regime and are ruled by the regime, and so on. . . . However, despite all that, there is a limit to fabricating a case. You can’t go too far. If this case had gone forward, with all the fabricated evidence, the prosecutors might have been unwilling to make themselves look ridiculous, using evidence that was so fabricated.82

The Timing: A Connection to Egypt’s Emergency Law?

 Certain observers who spoke with Human Rights Watch—including attorneys, human rights researchers, and political activists—said that they believed the announcement of the Victorious Sect arrests was connected to the renewal of Egypt’s Emergency Law in late April 2006.

This claim is difficult to assess, and the Egyptian government has not responded to requests for information from Human Rights Watch about the case. But the claim does provide one possible explanation for the timing of the arrests.

The announcement of the arrests came 11 days before President Hosni Mubarak renewed Egypt’s repressive Emergency Law (Law No. 162 of 1958), which has been in effect without interruption since October 1981. Several critics of the government suggested that the government’s renewal of the Emergency Law (in September 2005, Mubarak had promised that he would allow it to expire) was facilitated in part by the heightened sense of insecurity brought on by the April 19 announcement of the Victorious Sect arrests and the April 24 bombings.

Specifically, observers suggested that SSI may have fabricated the Victorious Sect case just before the existing law was set to expire, to make it easier for the government to justify the law’s renewal. When actual bombing attacks took place in Dahab on April 24, 2006, these observers argued, the fabricated case was no longer needed and the prosecution office was then allowed by the Interior Ministry to order the men’s release. Attorneys suggest that authorities then arranged to have new detention decrees issued for the men, so they would remain in custody until media and other observers forgot about the original allegations. (Under Egypt’s Emergency Law, SSI can issue unlimited detention decrees to hold detainees in prison, and release orders are routinely ignored.)

Said Shehata, one of the detainees’ attorneys, told Human Rights Watch:

At the time they were arrested, this country was in a tense situation.  As you know, they announced the arrests . . . after they actually occurred, just before the Emergency Law was renewed.83

Several other detainees’ attorneys made the same argument to Human Rights Watch. Mohamed Zare’i, the human rights attorney, agreed with the detainees’ attorneys, and said that the authorities used the youth who were arrested because they were involved in conservative religious study, which would make it easier to portray them as extremists:

Maybe some of them talked about some religious issues. Maybe one of them downloaded something from the internet, some article. And all this coincided with the fact that they [the government] needed something because the Emergency Law was set to expire, and they needed to point to danger. These guys [the detainees] were just religious, and they were meeting with each other, and State Security made something out of that. . . . Whenever the Emergency Law has to be renewed, the government always comes up with something to justify it. Over the years, they have brought up terrorism, drugs, the black market, thugs, the Iraq war, and other issues.84

Mohamed Hashim, an attorney familiar with SSI detention practices, agreed with these arguments and also suggested that SSI manufactured the allegations because the young men were more religiously devout than most Cairo youth:

Listen: I don’t like State Security. We’ve had some serious problems [referring to Gamaa Islamiya members arrested in the 1990s]. They really tortured people. But I have to say, they don’t ever completely fabricate something, out of nothing. Rather, they take a little something, and then exaggerate it. They take something not serious, and make it serious. They take something small, and make it big.

Hashim argued that the “something” in this case was the young men’s conservatism, and also suggested that the arrests were connected to the Emergency Law renewal. He explained:

State Security needs to show that it’s working, that it’s useful, and cases like these are useful politically, around the renewal of the Emergency Law. When State Security cracks down, the government can then say, “The country is going through unstable times,” and it looks like it might be true.85

Not all the observers whom Human Rights Watch spoke with agreed that the arrests were motivated solely by the renewal of the Emergency Law. Adel Mekki suggested the arrests were simply part of an effort by SSI to make itself look useful and important:

The Egyptian government does not need a reason [justification] to renew the Emergency Law. They do what they want to do. If they want to renew it, they will. . . .

So in my opinion, this case was manufactured by State Security on their own. They do this sometimes, to make themselves look useful.86

Diaa Rashwan, a commentator on terrorism issues for al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies who followed the case, suggested a more basic motivation for the arrests:

State Security wants to maintain its raison d’être. Like all things in the world, it seeks money and power and privileges, and the freedom to do whatever it wants. This is why they exaggerate the threats from terrorism, so that they remain necessary and important.87

The arrests, Rashwan said, also revealed a central flaw in Egypt’s domestic counter-terrorism strategy:

And yet, if you analyze what they do, there is nothing. All we have is arrests, not prosecutions. A lot of the so-called plots they disrupt are simply made up. All the time, they are trying to discover plots, they are searching, trying to find conspiracies—though they rarely find anything. It’s their methodology: they make arrests. They are inclined toward arresting people, as opposed to gathering intelligence and information. They could, instead of making random arrests, put a priority on facilitating better intelligence-gathering, but they don’t. They have a culture and a habit of heavy-handedness.88

24 Initial reports indicated that 23 were killed in the blasts, but authorities soon lowered the number to 18. See Daniel Williams, Egyptians Face Grim Task of Bomb Cleanup, Washington Post, April 26, 2006.

25 Murad Al-shishani, “Egypt Breaks-up al-Ta'efa al-Mansoura Jihadist Group,” Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Focus, Volume 3, Issue 16, April 25, 2006, available at (accessed July 15, 2007); Ely Karmon, “Egypt as a New Front of al-Qaeda,” International Institute for Counter-terrorism, May 5, 2006, available at (accessed July 15, 2007).

26 See Murad Al-shishani, “Egypt Breaks-up al-Ta'efa al-Mansoura Jihadist Group.”

27 Human Rights Watch interview with Hussein Metwalli, journalist who interviewed families and released detainees, Cairo, June 13, 2007. Metwalli spoke with family members of Gabr’s and relatives of other detainees, and heard about the arrests from neighbors and other witnesses. He told Human Rights Watch that he believed Gabr was picked up because someone else gave his name to State Security, for unknown reasons.

28 Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former State Security detainee, Cairo July 11, 2007.

29 Ibid. This is consistent with the conclusion reached by the journalist Hussein Metwalli, who spoke with numerous witnesses from the neighborhood in which the arrests took place.

30 Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former SSI detainee, Cairo July 11, 2007; and Human Rights Watch interview with H.B.F., former SSI detainee, Cairo, July 13, 2007.

31 According to the two released prisoners, it was a list for a competition or quiz game that was hosted at Farag’s house, in which the men on the list were asked factual questions about Islamic verses and theology. The prisoners said this event took place during a birthday party for Farag that had taken place a few weeks before. Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former State Security detainee, Cairo July 11, 2007; and Human Rights Watch interview with H.B.F., former State Security detainee, Cairo, July 13, 2007.

32 Details about the arrests of these four detainees is taken from a Human Rights Watch interview with the family of Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, Cairo, June 20, 2007; transcript of an attorney interview of the family of Mohamed Nasr, Cairo, April 21, 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Taha Hussein Sa'ad Mohamed Ali, June 2007; transcript of an attorney interview with the family of Taha Hussein Sa'ad Mohamed Ali, late April 2006; transcript of an attorney interview with the parents of Mahmoud Salah Ibrahim Imam and Mohamed Salah Ibrahim Imam, Cairo, late April 2006.

33 This and the following accounts of Mahmoud and Mohamed’s arrests are contained in a transcript of an attorney interview with the parents of Mahmoud Salah Ibrahim Imam and Mohamed Salah Ibrahim Imam Mohamed, Cairo, late April 2006.

34 Referring to Mohamed Nasr Ibrahim Awad, one of the 22 men on the list provided by State Security on April 19, 2006.

35 Transcript of an attorney interview of the Ibrahim Awad, father of Mohamed Nasr, Cairo, April 21, 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

36 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarek Nasr, Mohamed Nasr’s brother, Cairo, June 20, 2007.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarek Nasr, June 20, 2007. Tarek said that the officer said, “‘What is this Mohamed?  These are kindergarten books.’ Mohamed told him, ‘These are the only things we have here.’”

38 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarek Nasr, June 20, 2007.

39 Transcript of an attorney interview with Ibrahim Awad, April 21, 2006.

40 Transcript of a video interview with Emad Ezzat Labib, Cairo, April 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

41 The accounts provided here about the arrest of Taha Hussein Sa'ad are based on the transcripts of two attorney interviews with Taha’s parents, Cairo, late April 2006.

42 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Taha Hussein Sa'ad, June 6, 2007.

43 Transcript of attorney interview with I.K.B., family member of Ahmad Mohamed Bassiouni, Cairo, late April 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

44 Human Rights Watch interview with Hussein Metwalli, Egyptian journalist who investigated the arrests, Cairo, June 13, 2007. Metwalli told Human Rights Watch that he believed the allegations against Ahmad Bassiouni and the other detainees were not credible, and that SSI appeared to have fabricated the details. According to Metwalli, Mrs. Bassiouni also denied that her husband could possibly be involved with the supposed plots announced on April 19; and another family member said the same: “[He] is a very straight man and is not related to any of the alleged things.” Transcript of attorney interview with I.K.B., family member of Ahmad Mohamed Bassiouni, Cairo, late April 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

45 The accounts provided here about the arrest of Hani Ahmad Mansour Mohamed are based on the transcripts of attorney interviews with Hani’s parents, Cairo, late April 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

46 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Hani Ahmad Mansour Mohamed, June 6, 2007.

47 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with S.B., mother of a detainee, Cairo, June 6, 2007.

48 Human Rights Watch interview with Said Shehata, attorney for multiple detainees, Cairo, June 11, 2007.

49 Human Rights Watch interview with Ayman Okail, attorney and director of Ma’at, an NGO that represented several of the 22 detainees in 2006, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

50 Ibid.

51 Human Rights Watch interview with Adel Mekki, an attorney familiar with State Security practices, Cairo, June 13, 2007.

52 Human Rights Watch interview with A.K.M., human rights researcher, Cairo, June 11, 2007.

53 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Hashim, political opposition leader familiar with State Security detention practices, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

54 Human Rights Watch interviews with Said Shehata, attorney for multiple detainees, Cairo, July 9 and 11, 2007. Shehata told Human Rights Watch that in his experience representing SSI detainees, it was rare for detainees to be taken before a prosecutor while they were still suffering injuries or effects of mistreatment; most were brought to the prosecution office later: “State Security usually waits until wounds are healed before bringing detainees before the prosecutor.  And anyway, even if there are marks, the forensic experts will usually write down that they are ’marks of an old wound.’”

55 Human Rights Watch interview with Said Shehata, attorney for multiple detainees, Cairo, July 9, 2007.

56 Human Rights Watch interview with A.S., attorney for two detainees, Cairo, July 13, 2007.

57 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarek Nasr, Mohamed Nasr’s brother, Cairo, June 20, 2007.

58 Ibid.

59 The descriptions from L.S. provide here are based on a Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former detainee of State Security, Cairo July 11, 2007.

60 L.S. also told Human Rights Watch that another prisoner held with him in Damanhour, who remained in prison as of August 2007, was transferred to Lazoghli and back again during March 2006 (presumably for interrogation), and saw many of the same prisoners before they were sent to Damanhour: “He heard them being tortured, and saw them and their wounds, including one guy who near him, who was so badly tortured, with electricity and beatings, he was helping him clean his wounds with some water.  Later, the guys showed up in the prison and this guy was there too, and they were reunited.”

61 Human Rights Watch interview with H.B.F., former State Security detainee, Cairo, July 13, 2007. H.B.F. said that some detainees said little about their torture: “Some people don’t really get into details about their torture, for no reason other that it’s so common. Nobody is going to tell you ‘I got electrocuted!’ because I myself got electrocuted too and I don’t want to hear others telling me about their electrocution. And why talk about the blindfold? Everybody gets blindfolded.” In any case, H.B.F. did talk in detail to the four detainees noted above about their mistreatment, and they did provide details.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid.

64 Human Rights Watch interview with Hussein Metwalli, journalist who interviewed families and released detainees, Cairo, June 13, 2007. The last phrase is a translation of an Egyptian Arabic idiom that literally means: “I must not only walk along the wall, but inside the wall.”

65 The accounts provided here are based on an interview conducted by Hussein Metwalli with a released SSI detainee, Cairo, November 2007.

66 Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former State Security detainee, Cairo July 11, 2007.

67 Human Rights Watch interview with H.B.F., former State Security detainee, Cairo, July 13, 2007. H.B.F., who suffered his own mistreatment while in custody, during unrelated interrogation, also told Human Rights Watch: “I just want to say something quickly about the psychology itself of the interrogation process. When you are being tortured, you reach a state that you’ve said all the facts, basically, but the torture doesn’t stop so you reach the conclusion that he [the State Security officer] wants you to say what the interrogator wants to hear, so you start saying what the interrogator wants to hear.  So you fall actually into that trap. And sometimes you even elaborate even more than the guy wants to hear. So this extra information that you gave him, this means that he will torture you more to get even more extra information and will torture the others in order to complete the new plot now.”

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid.

70 Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former State Security detainee, Cairo July 11, 2007.

71 Human Rights Watch interview with H.B.F., former State Security detainee, Cairo, July 13, 2007.

72 Human Rights Watch interview with L.S., former State Security detainee, Cairo July 11, 2007. 

73 Human Rights Watch interview with H.B.F., former State Security detainee, Cairo, July 13, 2007.

74 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Zare’i, human rights attorney, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

75 Ibid. Diaa Rashwan, a terrorism expert for al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies who followed the Victorious Sect case, agreed with Zare’i, telling Human Rights Watch that he considered the release orders to be a good indication that the case was fabricated. Human Rights Watch interview with Diaa Rashwan, commentator on terrorism issues for al-Ahram, Cairo June 10, 2007. Zare’i and Rashwan were not surprised that most of the detainees still remain in custody: both told Human Rights Watch that SSI regularly issues arrest decrees even after prosecutors order detainees to be released.

76 Committee against Torture, “Conclusions and Recommendations, Egypt,” U.N. Doc. CAT/C/CR/29/4 (2002), para. 5(h).

77 Human Rights Watch interview with Said Shehata, attorney for multiple detainees, Cairo, July 11, 2007. The Wa’ad were a group of almost 100 men, mostly from the greater Cairo area, who were arrested by SSI in 2001 and accused of plotting various crimes; authorities alleged the group was plotting to “assassinate security officials, public figures, and bomb he state’s economic institutions,” and that the group was “receiving military training, sending members abroad for fighting experience . . . using the internet as a means of coordination between the organizational cells and distributing literature.” See Amnesty International, “Egypt – Systematic abuses in the name of security,” AI Index: MDE 12/001/2007, April 11, 2007, p. 27,

78 Human Rights Watch interview with Adel Mekki, human rights attorney, Cairo, June 12, 2007. Mekki also said: “It’s not the first time that a group of suspects gets rounded up, only to be granted release orders later. Take, for instance, the case of the ‘Soldiers of Allah,’ in 2002 [a group of 43 men arrested in 2002 and charged with planning bombing attacks around Cairo]. They were referred to a military court, but the military court ordered the release of the suspects: they looked at the case and decided there was no evidence. Yet despite that, the Interior Ministry did not release them. And we’re talking here about an exceptional, powerful court—the most exceptional court in the country. Some were released, but to this day, many are still in detention. This is something normal for State Security, and it applies also to the Victorious Sect case.”

79 Human Rights Watch interview with Adel Mekki, human rights attorney, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

80 Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Saif al-Islam, attorney, Cairo, June 9, 2007.

81 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Zare’i, human rights attorney, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

82 Human Rights Watch interview with Ayman Okail, attorney and director of Ma’at, an NGO that represented several of the 22 detainees in 2006, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

83 Human Rights Watch interview with Said Shehata, attorney for multiple detainees, Cairo, June 13, 2007.

84 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Zare’i, human rights attorney, Cairo, June 12, 2007. Zare’i's argument appears accurate, with respect to the renewal of the Emergency Law in 2003: in April 2003, Prime Minister Atef Ebeid addressed the Egyptian parliamentary assembly about the need for the 2003 renewal, citing numerous ongoing “threats” to Egypt, including not only terrorism, but the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, worsening political instability in Sudan, “smuggling of huge quantities of narcotics,” and US military operations in Iraq. “Aren’t these enough reasons to ask for an extension of the state of emergency for three more years?’ Ebeid asked. Ebeid also vowed that the renewal would not be a barrier to democratization, political participation, or freedom of expression. See Gamal Essam El-Din, “Three More Years,” Al-Ahram, March 5, 2003, (accessed September 6, 2007).

85 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Hashim, Gamaa Islamiya official familiar with State Security detention practices, Cairo, June 12, 2007.

86 Human Rights Watch interview with Adel Mekki, attorney familiar with State Security activities, Cairo, June 13, 2007.

87 Human Rights Watch interview with Diaa Rashwan, commentator on terrorism issues for al-Ahram, Cairo, June 10, 2007.

88 Ibid.