Testimony by Anas Fouda:
An Egyptian Journalist held for 35 days in a secret UAE prison
“At the request of state security I attended their offices in Ajman on July 2, after being told I was unable to leave the country for an unspecified reason at Dubai airport on June 27th. When I arrived at their office I was put in the back of a large van, chained and blindfolded, before being driven to prison. I was not told why I had been arrested and I do not know where I was taken.
“I was kept in solitary confinement throughout my incarceration and only saw the sunlight for 15 minutes during 35 days in prison. My prison cell was very small with only enough room to walk around a mattress that was on the floor and no windows. For 24 hours a day fluorescent lighting was on and freezing air conditioning blasted in the cell. It was so cold prison guards wore heavy jackets but I was only allowed to wear thin cotton clothes.
“On the second day of my detention I was interrogated for around four hours, which was the only time I was questioned throughout my detention. They asked me if I was a Muslim Brotherhood activist. I told them I had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood since 1988 but that in nearly 10 years of living in Dubai I had never been politically active.
“Over the course of time my health deteriorated. By the end I was unable to stand or walk without assistance due to severe disorientation. This was a result of being held in solitary confinement: the constant lighting and lack of sunlight meant I had no sense of time or location. Only when prison guards would shout ‘it’s prayer time’ would I have a sense of what time it was. I was refused proper medical attention and denied glasses I need due to poor eyesight.
“I was unable to sleep due to the poor conditions, resting only when I physically collapsed out of exhaustion. The freezing temperatures, constant lighting and disorientation prevented me from being able to sleep.
“With no contact with my family or the outside world I was left traumatized and depressed. The only time I heard voices of other inmates was when prisoners in cells nearby recited the Qur’an during prayers. From their voices I was able to identify 17-20 different inmates who were all Egyptian.
“In this prison all the prisoners were held secretly and without charge. We had no official rights and the law was not applied to us in anyway. I requested that I be allowed a phone call to my family, to know if I had been charged and to be given a pair of glasses so I could see. These requests were ignored.
“On the day of my release I was taken to a room, told to have a shower and given back the clothes I was wearing when arrested. After I washed and dressed I was taken into a room with several men who I assume were members of the security services.
“At this point my blindfold was removed and I saw the faces of the officials for the first time. They told me that my problem was not a big one and that the Muslim Brotherhood was close to the UAE but political statements made in Egypt had caused a problem.
“They said I would be released on condition that I repeated statements made during my interrogation on camera and signed a paper stating I agreed not to take any belongings with me to Egypt. I asked if I had a choice to do this or not and was told I did not. I repeated on camera that I had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood since 1988 but had not been politically active in the UAE in my nearly 10 years living there as a journalist.
“After this I was blindfolded again and put into a car. I was driven to Abu Dhabi airport and as I entered the plane I was handed back my passport. Inside I found that my residency visa had been cancelled. The men told me to contact the UAE Embassy in Cairo regarding my belongings. I had lived in the UAE for years; I have an apartment, two cars, bank accounts and my whole life there. It is all gone.
“The conditions in prison have left me in poor health, both mentally and physically. It is very difficult to recover from the tough conditions I suffered. If I had been there for another month I do not know if I could have survived.
“I was accused of being part of a media committee that helps members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE know about news in their home country. This was a ludicrous accusation given that I am a journalist with a respected organisation, MBC. They had no evidence and I was left convinced they are trying to fabricate evidence of a plot that doesn’t exist. Thankfully, they released me but I know there are two journalists who remain in secret detention: Ahmed Jaafer and Mohamed Ali Mousa.
“I am deeply concerned for those who remain in the secret prison. The conditions are awful and it is designed to break you mentally and physically. The prisoners have no rights and are not being subjected to the rule of law.
“How long can the UAE authorities be allowed to treat people this way?”
This testimony was provided to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights on August 14th 2013.