Mohamed Adel walked out of an Egyptian prison in January after spending over 1,000 days in solitary confinement.
His grueling prison sentence may finally be over, but the 28-year-old activist is by no means a free man. For the next three years, he will be forced to spend every night locked up in a police station for 12 hours, in what human-rights advocates and attorneys say amounts to an unprecedented form of punishment for political prisoners.
Adel was a founding member of the April 6 Youth Movement, a grassroots opposition group at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that forced president Hosni Mubarak out of office after 30 years in power. In December 2013, he was sentenced—along with April 6 co-founder Ahmed Maher and activist Ahmed Douma—to three years in jail on charges of violating Egypt’s protest law, a draconian piece of legislation that has been used to lock up thousands of dissidents.
As a high-profile political detainee, Adel was kept in isolation. He spent most of his sentence locked up alone in his cell for 22 hours a day. During his two hours outside, other detainees were warned not to converse with him. On prison visits, several intelligence officials would sit with the family and record every word of their conversation.
“It was tough psychologically; you are cut off from the world,” Adel said in a phone interview with The Nation from his home. “You have good days and bad days.”
On January 22, he was released after serving his full three-year term. Yet his sentence includes an additional three years of probation, and authorities are making full use of Egypt’s penal code to keep him locked up for half that period, effectively extending his time in detention for another year and a half and ruining his ability to live a normal life.
For the entire three-year probationary period, Adel has to turn himself in to his local police station every evening at 6 pm and is only released at 6 am the following morning. Inside the police station, he is not allowed to have his cell phone and cannot communicate with the outside world. If he misses one night, he will be sent back to prison for at least two weeks. His co-defendant, Maher, who was released earlier in January, is being subjected to the same treatment.
“They are taking exceptional measures against us,” Adel said. “There’s 12 hours every day where I can’t do anything. I’m only half free.”