Know Your Prison

1- Gamassa Prison

16 June, 2020

The idea of building a prison in Gamassa began in 2010, under former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, who announced the establishment of a prison in the city of Gamassa, Dakahliya, but with the January revolution and Mubarak’s ouster, the construction stopped.

In late August 2013, it was decided to open the new prison after the number of prisoners rose after the events of Rabaa Al Adawia Square.

On August 21, 2013, a decision was issued by the Minister of Interior at that time, Mohamed Ibrahim, carrying No. 1750 of 2013. The decision consists of three articles, the first of which provides for the establishment of Gamassa in the Dakahliya Security Directorate, in which men sentenced to life imprisonment and aggravated imprisonment shall be placed.

Article 2 stipulates the establishment of a public prison in the Dakahliya Security Directorate (called a high-security prison in Gamassa). The persons mentioned in article III of Act No. 396 of 1956 shall be placed in it in respect of law of the organization of prisons and its amendments.

Which states:

(Article 3 – The sentences against the following persons shall be carried out in a public prison:

(A) Sentenced to imprisonment.

(B) Women sentenced to hard labor.

  • men sentenced to hard labor who are transferred from prisons for health reasons, or reaching 60 years of age or for spending the half-term of the sentence or for three years, i.e. the two thirds of the sentence, and their behavior was well.

The Director-General of prisons is authorized to form a committee to evaluate the prison’s authority to transfer the prisoner from the prison, and if the prisoner’s behavior deviated, he may be returned to the the prison (limane).

(D) sentenced to more than three months’ imprisonment unless the remaining time at which they were sentenced is lower and they have not been previously held in a public prison.)

The third article was related to publishing in Al Waqei Al Masria (Egyptian Gazette) and working on the decision from the day after the date of its publication.

The decision was published in issue 192 (continued) – year 186e, of the Egyptian Gazette on Thursday, August 22, 2013.

 

On August 26, 2013, the Ministry of Interior announced that it would start operating the prison within days after receiving the implementing companies and providing security personnel, and General Mustafa Baz, Assistant Minister of the Interior of the Prison Service, made a visit to the prison, accompanied by major General Sami al-Mehei, Director of Security of Al-Dakahliya, and the Directorate of Security, in an unannounced visit.

The cost of the prison was between 750 and 850 million Egyptian pounds, and the new prison, located near the entrance of the city of Gamassa, overlooks the international coastal road, and is within walking distance of Mansoura road.

It was built on a 42,000 square meter area and was built to accommodate prisoners with severe or life sentences and very serious prisoners, so it was constructed of reinforced concrete, with a thickness of over 50 cm, additional brick buildings, guarded from outside, surrounded by 44 guard towers from inside and outside.

The Prison From Inside:

We have two prisons inside the area of Gamassa Prison :

1- Gamassa Prison (Limane)

2-  Highly Guarded Prison of Gamassa.

 

The prison has 6 guest wards, four of which are reserved for men, each with three floors and each floor with 32 cells, a capacity of 96 cells per ward, a total of 384 cells. The other two are for women, each with three floors with 24 cells. This means up to 72 cells per ward, with a total of 144 cells.

The cell holds between 25 and 30 prisoners, making the prison capacity as high as 15,000. The prison includes a huge “carpenter workshop” as well as a an exhibition for decorative hand made works.

On October 13, 2017, a hospital of three floors was inaugurated. It has a seating area of 230 beds, two lifts and a clinic section with all specialties.

Overcrowding and Extremism:

Families of the prisoners complained of ill-treating the prisoners in Gamassa prison, along with placing political prisoners in criminal wards and disciplinary wards.

  • The result of the overcrowding and mixing of political prisoners with criminal ones was that extremist elements were caught trying to recruit other prisoners for the extremist organization known as Sinai State Organization, which led to the case no. 840 year 2017, Supreme State Security, which was initiated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, headed by Chancellor Khaled Diaa Eddin, the first Attorney General of the Prosecution, who started investigations in it.

The decision of referral included the promotion of the accused Aliwa Mogi Aliwa and Mohamed Mahmoud Moussa directly in their prison in Gamassa prison, among prisoners, to join the Sinai state organization, as well as the call of 8 other suspects in the case by saying among their circles to join the same organization, which aims at committing terrorist crimes..[1]

 

Drugs and Anecdotes:

One of the prison’s anecdote was the arrest of a police corporal with drugs to sell it to prisoners, and a record 1878/50, the crimes of his 2016 Gamassa police station, was released.[2]

 

However, one of the police secretaries had torn up the prison’s records, trying to prevent the completion of the drug case against the corporal’s colleague, and he was also arrested.[3]

 

As complaints of medical neglect of the poor health of political prisoners and abuses within the prison grew, the National Council for Human Rights organized a visit to the prison on 13 November 2019, where a delegation from the Council visited the Highly Guarded Gamassa prison.

Letters From Prisoners:

Among many letters sent by prisoners, we state here a letter sent by Omar Abdul Maqsoud, a prisoner in Highly Guarded Gamassa Prison:

 

My wife brought me as a gift a book titled “The Songs Radio” by the creative writer Omar Taher. On the cover of this book, the designer has put photos of record tapes covers that belong to the eighties and nineties of a number of singers whom we like till now, and others who retired the career or died.

On the cover, photos of Cheb Khaled, (Aisha Album), Mohamed Monir (Shababik), Amr Diab (Nour Al Ein) and “A Night with Adawia” along with photos of great singers of old times like Om Kolthoum (Howa Sahih Al Hawa Ghallab – Is it true that Love wins?) and Al Andalib – nightingale (Safini Mara) and Fayza Ahmed (Noqtet Daaf).

………………………….

Personally, I correspond Gamassa city in my memories with the song “Lolaki – It is only because of you” by the singer Ali Hemeida. I remember it and the events took place on the background. It was the nineties, we went to spend the summer holiday in Gamassa after returning from a Gulf state. The city was under construction, calm, classy. We used to rent villa Dalia annually, it was few meters away from Mimi al Sherbini’s villa, a prominent anchor and a friend of my uncle. The city was a place to spend good time in comfort and recreation.

My father used to take us to children’s theater, to watch plays played by famous actors like May Abdul Nabi and Alaa Morsi.

Going to theater was amusing. We used to take a bus with chairs only: no doors, no walls, no windows. It was called “Taftaf”.

It was my first time to attend cinema, since that time I turned into an addict to movies. It was a summer cinema with no ceiling. The cinema used to display 3 movies with one ticket. I remember the advertisements more than the movies itself, as the ads were about Tom and Jerry cartoons.

…………………………………………………..

Today I am in Gamassa still, but highly guarded. In a prison that was built in the same place and the same city in which I enjoyed my childhood. The same Gamassa, today, witnesses my imprisonment, my cell, my jail. It witnesses a wasted life and a restricted dream. I did not listen to Lolaki (It is only because of you) long time ago, since my uncle gave me the record tape as a present after this famous incident, as if he knows that I will never be able to listen to it again, so he insisted to engrave it in my memory in order to remember it when I return to Gamassa, nevertheless, he never knew that I will return to it as a prisoner… It is only because of you that I fell in love.

 

Omar Abdul Maqsoud – Highly Guarded Gamassa Prison – published on 4th April 2016.[4]

===============================================

 

[1]                 Al Shorouk Newspaper: published on 10th December 2018, browsed on 4th June 2020https://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=10122018&id=94a793bd-1e51-47a2-b846-15ad6572685c

 

[2]                 Akbar Baladna website: pulished 5th July 2016, browsed 8th June 2020 https://akhbar-baladna.net/%D8%B6%D8%A8%D8%B7-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%B7%D8%A9-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AC-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%AC/

 

 

[3]                 Al Faraana Website: published on 12th November 2016 browsed on 8th June  2020https://www.alfaraena.com/%D8%AD%D8%A8%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%B7%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%B3%D8%AC%D9%86-%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B5%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%87/

 

 

[4]                 Omar Abdul Maqsoud’s letter, published in “Negoum Al Wahsha – stars of isolation” blog on 4th April 2016 browsed on 4th June 2020http://lettersfromthestarsofdarknessi.blogspot.com/2016/04/blog-post_3.html?q=%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%A9