After fifteen years in administrative detention and a similar number of release orders, Mohamed El Sharkawi is still imprisoned by the Egyptian authorities with no charge against him.
El Sharkawi holds dual Egyptian and Pakistani citizenship. He was first arrested in the early 80's after the assassination of former president Anwar Al Sadat. The court acquitted him and he was released a few weeks later. In the late 1980's while he was on a pilgrimage to Mecca he learned from his family that the police came looking for him. El Sharkawi decided to flee to Pakistan where he married and obtained Pakistani nationality. In 1994 he was again arrested in Pakistan, and extradited to Egypt a year later.
Said Haddadi of Amnesty International has been following the case of El Sharkawi: 'The request to have him sent back from Pakistan was based on a number of charges including forgery of official documents and an unauthorized position of arms. But after he was presented before the court in Egypt he was acquitted again, that's when the interior ministry started issuing administrative detention orders against him.'
For almost 30 years now, Egypt has imposed an emergency law across the country. The law authorizes the minister of interior to "arrest and detain suspected persons or those who endanger public order or security".
Although the Egyptian court acquitted El Sharkawi, he never made out of prison and his release order was not put into effect. Instead he was moved to another prison and kept until a new administrative detention order was issued. Haddadi explains how this procedure now known to the Egyptian human rights council as the "revolving doors" policy. 'When the person received this release order it is put on paper that the person has been moved to a local police station to finalize the release procedure. But in practice the detainee is moved to another prison for a few days until they issue a new detention order ... El Sharkawi has been in this case for 15 years.'
The interior ministry simply ignores the release orders. And because there is no specific charge against the detainee, he does not appear before the court. Detainees can file an appeal against the detention order but in most cases do not get the chance to appear before the judge.
Like father like son
El Sharkawi's family stayed in Pakistan after his extradition to Egypt, until 2004 when his eldest son Abdelhamid was arrested. He was kept incommunicado detention for 14 months in Pakistan and like his father, extradited to Egypt. Two months later he was released.
Abdelhamid has been carefully raising up his father's case with international human rights organisations. 'With no real results', he says. He is not optimistic that he will see his father free soon unless serious international pressure is put on the Egyptian authorities.
Human Rights organisation reported that El Sharkawi has been moved to 6 prisons and was tortured and ill-treated. Two years ago he was moved to new prison far away from the capital city Cairo where his son Abdelhamid lives. 'Its been two years now since he was moved to Al Wadi Al Jadid prison, one thousand km from where we live in Cairo. I've been there twice, the first time I arrived and they forbid me to see him, the second time was 6 months ago.'
The long awaited visit with his father lasted not more than two hours under the watchful eye of security agents. According to the son Abdelhaim, his father was moved far away as a punishment for refusing to be locked in a cell earlier than the regular time prisoners are usually locked in for the night.
As the eldest son, Abdelhamid has the responsibility to care for the whole family. He hopes to unite with them in Egypt but he is worried about their safety if they return.
According to Amnesty International there are thousands of prisoners held under administrative detention in Egypt, many of which are suspected of membership in Islamic organisations suspected of a series of bombing and attacks in Cairo and the Sinai peninsula in past years.