Jailed Al Jazeera Journalist Details Prison Conditions in Letter

By Merrill Knox 

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peter gresteAl Jazeera has published a letter from correspondent Peter Greste, who is one of three Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt and accused of spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist group.

Greste, who was arrested along with colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed on December 29, writes that he chose to speak out because remaining silent “validates an attack not just on me and my two colleagues but on freedom of speech across Egypt.”

I am in Tora prison – a sprawling complex in the south of the city where the authorities routinely violate legally enshrined prisoners’ rights, denying visits from lawyers, keeping cells locked for 20 hours a day (and 24 hours on public holidays) and so on. But even that is relatively benign compared to the conditions my colleagues are being held in.

Fahmy and Baher have been accused of being Muslim Brotherhood members, So they are being held in the far more draconian “Scorpion prison” built for convicted terrorists.  Fahmy has been denied the hospital treatment he badly needs for a shoulder injury he sustained shortly before our arrest. Both men spend 24 hours a day in their mosquito-infested cells, sleeping on the floor with no books or writing materials to break the soul- destroying tedium. Remember we have not been formally charged, much less convicted of any crime. But this is not just about three Al Jazeera journalists. Our arrest and continued detention sends a clear and unequivocal message to all journalists covering Egypt, both foreign and local.