The story of one activist’s unjust imprisonment

Five days after activist Ahmed Doma suddenly disappeared, his family and lawyers finally managed to contact him Tuesday morning in Tora prison. They say that Doma is in good health, despite suffering humiliating treatment at a prison in Tanta during the first 20 days of his detention.

“We were able to visit him today in Tora prison and he said he is being treated well… and is in good health,” said Norham Hefzy, Doma’s fiancé.

Doma has spent 30 days in detention pending investigation after he was arrested on 4 January and charged with setting fire to the Institut d’Egypte during December clashes between protesters and military forces in downtown Cairo. The violence, which left 17 people dead and hundreds injured, erupted after military forces violently dispersed a sit-in in front of the cabinet building.

Before being transferred to Tora, Doma was detained in Tanta governorate, upon his lawyers’ request, in order to attend law school exams at his university nearby.

His family has been searching for him in both prisons for the past week. Prison officials had told them he was not in their custody.

Hefzy told Egypt Independent that the revolutionary activist was harassed in the Tanta prison.

“An investigations police officer tore up Doma’s clothes and took away his shoes and threatened to punish him if he leaked any information outside the prison,” she said.

Doma is charged with damaging public property, assaulting public workers, obstructing traffic and unlawful assembly, according to Ali Soliman, one of his lawyers. On 19 January, the court rejected an appeal to release him from detention, he said.

Soliman submitted a complaint to the general prosecution Tuesday and received a permit that allows Doma’s family and defense team to visit him in the future.

According to Ahmed Helmy, who leads Doma’s defense team, a civilian submitted the lawsuit against Doma and supported his accusations with a video taken with his cell phone. However, Doma doesn’t appear in the video, which Doma’s accuser claims was taken during the clashes.

“The video is taken during the night in very dim lighting where two men appear from the back sitting on the ground in front of the cabinet building,” said Helmy. Doma’s accuser says that there are molotov cocktails next to the two men in the video.

“These are the same accusations against activists that used to be leveled during Mubarak regime,” said Helmy.

The other video being used against Doma in the investigations is a recording of a live TV interview with him on the private satellite channel Dream 2, where he said: “I hereby admit that I was throwing molotovs with the protesters, not at the building per se, but in the face of soldiers who were gunning us down from the top.”

During the interrogation, when asked about that video, Doma defended himself and said that his words were not literal. Rather, he argued that he was defending the revolutionaries who were being killed.

“There is no case against him and no evidence for the charges,” said Helmy.

Thousands of protesters marched in solidarity with Doma from general prosecution headquarters to the Parliament building on Tuesday. The demonstrators asked MPs to support the long-time activist and pressure the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to immediately hand over power.

“Doma is one of the most dedicated activists I’ve ever met in my life, more than any one of us. And all the time, he is being punished for loving his country,” said Yasser al-Hawary, member of the Youth for Justice and Freedom movement in which Doma is a member.

Doma has a long history of activism. He was detained several times before and imprisoned twice, first in 2008 when he spent a year in prison for joining the ranks of Palestinian fighters during Israel’s war on Gaza, and again shortly before the revolution began last year, when he was sentenced to three months in prison for participating in a protest against the regime.

Protesters marched carrying pictures of Doma and signs that read “Free Doma” and “Government, where is Doma?” The chanted: “Doma is one of us and we won’t abandon him” and “Down with military rule.”

Hawary accused the SCAF of violating revolutionaries’ rights and slammed what he called “bias” in the investigations.

“We know for a fact that there isn’t an independent institution in our country. We have been fighting for the independence of the judiciary since the beginning of the revolution but nothing happened,” added Hawary.

“Doma’s arrest is a continuation of the suppression and violations that we faced before the revolution and which we insist have to end.”

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