Dr. Essam has been in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement since December 2013. His family has permanently been denied the right to family visits since October 2016.
Dr. Essam has been in Tora’s maximum security wing, known as Al-Aqrab, or the Scorpion. Tora’s prison authorities have regularly:
- prevented him from buying food from the prison canteen;
- prevented his family from bringing him food;
- provided him with only small portions of food;
- forced him to sleep on the floor of his solitary cell and confined him there for more than 23 hours a day.
Prison authorities escalated his prison conditions keeping him in complete 24-hours solitary confinement from January 25th to February 20th 2016. They reinstated his solitary confinement from February 22nd to March 3rd 2017.
Dr. Essam’s medical condition has massively deteriorated. He has been denied reasonable and necessary medical assistance. On one occasion, he fainted while addressing the court and an ambulance took him to an unknown location. On May 13, 2017, his lawyer filed a complaint with the public prosecutor calling for an investigation into violations committed by prison authorities against Dr. Essam and to reveal his whereabouts. Prison authorities in Al-Aqrab Prison have routinely denied Dr. Essam the right to family visits.
Based on information received by the family, Dr. Essam lost 15 kilograms (33 pounds), as reported by Human Rights Watch. Dr. Essam’s family has stated that he has suffered four heart attacks during his imprisonment. He is also suffering from:
- high blood pressure;
- ischemic heart disease;
- inguinal hernia;
- prostatic enlargement;
- rheumatoid arthritis;
His family doctor, who examined him on September 25, 2017, recommended that he undergo a cardiac catheterization operation and have a stent installed in his coronary artery.
In November 2017, Dr. Essam was part of a hunger strike in protest of prison conditions and being prevented from undergoing his necessary operation. Essam, alongside other inmates, had four main demands, those being:
- weekly one hour long family visits with no glass barriers
- improving the quantity and quality of the food
- allowing packages into the prison
- allowing the inmates to go outside everyday
Dr. Essam ended his hunger strike when a judge ordered the medical operation, however, the operation has not occurred to date. Amnesty International corroborates what his family has stated regarding the insufficient nutritious food available, and the lack of proper bedding. and disregard for minimum hygiene and water and sanitation standards, alongside poor ventilation and lighting. The use of solitary confinement as a tool to inflict punishment against prisoners with a political profile is tantamount to torture, according to Amnesty International. Due to the political surroundings of Dr. Essam’s detention, it is clear that his confinement falls under Amnesty International’s definition of torture.