Young Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash has died in a Cairo jail, his lawyer said on Saturday.
Habash, who was arrested in March 2018 after directing a much-watched video for the song “Balaha” by rock singer Ramy Essam, was charged with “spreading fake news” and “belonging to an illegal organization” and detained for over two years without trial.
“Balaha” is the name of an Egyptian film character known as a notorious liar and is given to President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi by his critics.
His lawyer, Ahmed al-Khawaga, was unable to give a cause of death, but told AFP news agency Habash’s health had been deteriorating for several days. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said on Twitter that Habash had died from “negligence and lack of justice.”
There was no immediate comment from the Interior Ministry, which oversees Egypt’s prison system.
Detainees in Egypt have been even more isolated than usual in recent times, with authorities suspending visits under measures taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Habash himself complained of his extreme isolation in a letter from October posted on Saturday on Facebook by activist Ahdaf Soueif. “It’s not prison that kills, it’s loneliness that kills … I’m dying slowly every day,” Habash wrote.
An estimated 60,000 people are believed by NGOs to be held as political prisoners in Egypt’s jails under an ongoing crackdown since President Mohamed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood was ousted by the army in 2013. Many of the detainees are secular activists, journalists, lawyers, academics and Islamists.
tj/mm (AFP, AP)