CAIRO (Middle East Eye) – Revelations about the luxury detention enjoyed by the jailed sons and aides of the late Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak have sparked anger online, given the majority of political prisoners in Egypt are incarcerated in squalid conditions.
In an interview broadcast on Nogoum FM radio, Egyptian musician Hani Mehanna recounted his experience in prison with Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, as well as top businessmen and ministers imprisoned after the January 2011 revolution.
Mehanna, a supporter of the ousted president, said he was held for six months in 2014 in the Tora Agricultural Prison, part of the Tora Prison Complex where many prominent opposition figures and human rights advocates are also held.
According to Mehanna, Mubarak’s sons, his interior minister Habib al-Adly, and business tycoons Ahmed Ezz and Hisham Talaat Mustafa were held in two exclusive buildings in the complex, where only 16 people were jailed. The officials were imprisoned for charges ranging from financial corruption to the killing of protesters.
The two Mubarak sons were released in 2015.
"We were 16 people staying in two buildings that could accommodate 3,000 people,” he told the radio host, Youssef al-Husseini.
"Hisham Talaat Mustafa built a huge mosque, and Ahmed Ezz built a gym and spa equipped with the latest technology, and there were ping-pong and snooker tables,” he recalled.
"I was shocked at the beginning. But then Alaa got me a TV and Gamal got me a fridge.
"I played football with them. Me and Alaa had a team, and Gamal had a team with some jailed officers. Habib al-Adly sometimes was the referee.”
The revelations came as a stark contrast to what detainees suffer in the maximum-security Scorpion Prison, which is located in the same complex as the Tora Agricultural Prison.
A report by Human Rights Watch, published last month, cited a leaked video recording showing dire conditions in the jail, "which almost completely deprive inmates of adequate ventilation, electricity, and hot water”.
The prison holds nearly 800 political prisoners, most of them in solitary confinement. At least 14 prisoners have died in Scorpion Prison since 2015, due to various reasons, including medical negligence and torture, according to several rights groups.
Egyptian authorities do not allow any independent oversight of places of detention in the country, and the government deals with prison issues in extreme secrecy.
The state-sponsored National Council for Human Rights said in May 2015 that police stations were 300 percent over capacity, and prisons 160 percent overcapacity.
Human rights groups estimate that at least 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egyptian jails under general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who seized power in 2013.