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Egypt building new prison in Sinai with capacity to hold 20,000 inmates

The project is among a range of new mega prisons inaugurated by the Sisi government, which has constructed more than a third of the country's prisons
Officers walk in front of Badr city's Correctional and Rehabilitation Center during a government-guided tour for the media, 65km east of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on 16 January 2022 (AFP)

Egypt’s interior ministry is currently building a new prison complex in Sinai, northeast of the country, enough to accommodate 20,000 inmates, according to a local media outlet.

The news comes amid continued calls to release tens of thousands of political prisoners held in the country’s jails since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2013.

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Mada Masr, an independent Egyptian news website, cited two sources as saying that the new prison is located in al-Jafjafah area in central Sinai and that its construction began in August of last year. The project is supervised by the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, the report added.

The prison complex is being built in an area that was previously olive farms owned by locals and will comprise up to five kilometres, the source said. The information has been verified by Mada Masr, which has obtained designs and engineering reports carried out at the request of the army.

The prison complex will include four normal prisons and two maximum-security prisons, with a total capacity of 20,064 inmates.

The report added that the design of the prison will be similar to the Wadi el-Natrun prison complex, which Sisi announced in September as being the country’s largest prison.

Sisi told a TV channel last year that Wadi al-Natrun prison would be “a full American-style” prison that will be followed by "seven or eight" other similar projects across the country.

"The prisoner in the compound will serve his sentence in a humane way: he will enjoy movement, subsistence, health care, humanitarian, cultural and reformatory care," Sisi said in remarks, which triggered a backlash among activists who have documented the deteriorating human rights conditions in prisons since he came to power.

Wadi al-Natrun prison was followed by the inauguration of the Badr prisons complex in January, called "the Correctional and Rehabilitation Center" in Badr city, 65 kilometres east of Cairo.

Sisi's administration has built more than a third of the country's current prisons, estimated to be 81.

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