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Prisoners in Egypt on sixth week of mass hunger strike: Amnesty

Around 130 prisoners protest against inhumane conditions, denial of family and lawyer visits, rights group says
Most of the prisoners were arrested more than two years ago and have not been allowed visits from families or lawyers (AFP/File photo)

About 130 prisoners in Egypt have been on hunger strike for more than six weeks in protest of inhumane conditions and the denial of family visits, Amnesty International said in a statement.

Most of the prisoners were arrested more than two years ago and have not been allowed a single visit from their families or lawyers, Amnesty said on Tuesday. 

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"By refusing to allow detainees to see their families, Egyptian authorities are flagrantly flouting both Egyptian and international law and displaying callous cruelty," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa head.

Two family members interviewed by the rights group said that even when they had official authorisation to meet with their detained relatives, prison authorities refused to allow the visit to go ahead.

Citing a statement issued by prisoners, Amnesty said authorities have retaliated against the hunger striking detainees by "beating them" and "applying electric shocks with tasers".

The prisoners, held at al-Aqrab maximum security prison in southern Cairo, launched their strike on 17 June, the day Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi died in custody. 

The ousted president's death prompted calls from human rights organisations for an international investigation, as well as the detention conditions of thousands of others being held as political prisoners.

According to Human Rights Watch, tens of thousands of people have been arbitrarily arrested since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in 2013, while hundreds have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

Earlier this year Amnesty International said arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture in Egypt had become routine.