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Sawarka's testimony to the EOHR

11 February 1999

 The EOHR strongly welcomes the release of Mahmoud Soliman Sallam
Al-Sawarka, the oldest Egyptian prisoner held in Israeli prisons, who
returned home on Wednesday, 10 February 1999. An EOHR mission welcomed him
on his arrival to Refah. The mission listened to his experience in Israeli
prisons, which was always a subject of concern for the organization ever
since it started its campaign in defense of the rights of Egyptian POWs in

Sawarka was tried on 15 July 1978, during the Israeli occupation of the
town of  Arish, on charges of exploding an Israeli vehicle, an incident
which resulted in the death of an Israeli soldier and the injury of
another. Sawarka was sentenced to 450 years in prison. However, after
spending about 21 years in prison, last week he was granted amnesty. 
Sawarka's testimony to the EOHR

An EOHR representative met Sawarka in his house in Al-Arish and listened to
his account of the violations suffered by him and other Egyptian prisoners
in Israeli prisons. His testimony asserted previous information revealed by
the EOHR to the local and international public opinion over the last years.
Sawarka said that he was held in the prisons of Magdal Ashkaloun, Nafha and
Askalan for over 21 years, during which he was subjected to inhuman
treatment and placed in solitary confinement for eight years. Moreover, on
the medical level, he was treated like a guinea pig, as he underwent seven
unsuccessful stomach operations conducted by medical students. Sawarka
added "I was close to death because of  these operations  they dealt with
me with deliberate carelessness and poor care." The EOHR representative saw
the disfiguring marks of the operations on his abdomen. He added that one
of the main violations of his most basic rights as a prisoner was that for
twelve years, he was kept on a diet consisting of bread and a glass of


Sawarka was subjected to heinous torture, both physical and psychological,
to coerce information from him about his comrades in the popular resistance
during the Israeli  occupation of Arish, particularly about members of the
Arab-Sinai Organization, in which he played a prominent role. As for the
methods of torture, these included the release of trained dogs to
intimidate him; being placed in a refrigerator for intermittent periods and
then having hot water poured on his body; being suspended with hands and
legs tied with iron fetters; severe beatings and kicking on the head and
body by the guards. In addition, he was prevented from receiving visits or
seeing his relatives, and was kept totally isolated from the outside world.
In this respect, he recalls that it was not before twelve years had passed
that he was able to see his wife, who was twenty when he was imprisoned,
and his daughter, born after his imprisonment. 

Sawarka's testimony reveals the deteriorating conditions of Egyptian and
Arab prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons. They are still subjected
to humiliating practices and flagrant violations. Some of them have served
their sentence a long time ago but were not released. Sawarka mentioned to
the EOHR the names of some Egyptians in Israeli prisons. These include:
Sultan Abdel Rasoul, Shetewi Hosheel Azazma, Soliman Hosheel Azazma,
Ramadan Al-Nagra Al-Sawarka, Muslim Gohama Tarabeen, Salama Tarabeen, all
held in Al-Nafha Prison; Ayman Younis and Salama Azazma, in Magdal
Ashkaloun Prison; and Iyad Hassana in Beer Sabaa Prison.

The EOHR thanks again the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Arab
human rights organizations, particularly the Palestinian Center for Human
Rights (PCHR), for their efforts in Sawarka's case. It also calls on them
to continue and intensify their efforts for the release of all Egyptian and
Arab prisoners held in Israel. With regard to Sawarka, the organization
appeals to the Egyptian authorities to provide him with free and full
medical care, refer him to a specialized medical committee, and provide
social security for him and his family.

The EOHR believes that the information included in Sawarka's testimony
confirms what has been said about the flagrant violations committed by the
Israeli authorities against Egyptian and Arab prisoners. Such violations,
which are carried out as part of a systematic policy adopted by Israel, are
in non-conformity with international human rights standards in general and
the Convention Against Torture and the Standard Minimum Rules for the
Treatment of Prisoners in particular. Therefore, the EOHR will refer
Sawarka's testimony to the United Nations Committee Against Torture for
investigation into the information it includes.

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