By: Nasser Al-Azzazi
Egyptian prisoners recently released from Israeli prisons are calling on President Mohamed Morsi to intervene on behalf of more than 80 Egyptians still incarcerated in Israeli facilities. The ex-prisoners demand that the Egyptian government pressures Israeli authorities to grant Egyptian prisoners the same rights enjoyed by inmates of other nationalities.
One of the recently released inmates stated that there are dozens of Egyptian prisoners suffering from neglect still incarcerated within Israeli facilities, with Egypt’s authorities failing to take action on the issue.
Nasser Salim Zaria, 22, was recently released after spending three years in Israeli prisons, after he was apprehended with six others attempting to cross the border into Israel. Zaria, who is from a small town near Sheikh Zuweid, stated that they made the crossing into Israel to look for work opportunities.
“We were apprehended one and a half kilometres after crossing the border, and brought to Eilat Police Station where we were held for 14 months until an Israeli court sentenced us to 4 years in prison. We were then transferred to the Otec facility in the city of Netanya, where we remained for two years, before being transferred again to Beer Al-Sabe’ where we stayed for another eight months,” he said.
He added: “The Israeli court released us after spending three years in custody, pending the affirmation of our identity as Egyptian citizens by the Egyptian consulate in Eilat. This required that my birth certificate, in addition to those of my father and brothers, be sent to Israeli authorities, a process which delayed my release an additional 60 days.”
Khaled Muhammad Abu Gahini, from the village of Al-Goura near Sheikh Zuweid, said that he narrowly escaped death when he and four other accomplices were apprehended by Israeli authorities 500 metres after crossing the border, at which point the Israeli authorities fired on the young men, killing a 16 year old. Abu Gahini added that after being transferred between a number of facilities in Israel he was eventually sentenced to four years in prison, and was released after three. He added that his release was postponed one month due to the inaction of the Egyptian embassy in Israel, which was responsible for providing documentation to Israeli authorities affirming that he was an Egyptian citizen.
Almost all those released said that there are still about 80 Egyptians incarcerated within the Israeli prison system, most of them from border regions in the Sinai peninsula, who crossed the border in search of work. Those who found work in Israel were often subject to discrimination, receiving wages of NIS 300 per month, which they stated was not enough to cover three days’ worth of expenses. They added that workers were also provided with inadequate food.
The ex-prisoners added that Egyptian workers in Israel were refused access to hospitals and prevented from engaging in Friday prayers, and claimed that Israeli factories fabricated documents suggesting Egyptians refused to follow orders and went on strike without justification.
They added that the Egyptian embassy ignored their problems completely, failing to provide Egyptian inmates with lawyers. The Red Cross attempted to provide supplies to Egyptian inmates but were refused access to prisons on the grounds that Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel. Egyptian officials made no effort, the ex-inmates claimed, to assist inmates in Israeli prisons. They said that representatives from the Egyptian embassy visited inmates only once or twice during their incarceration.