Mohamed Soltan, detained by Egyptian authorities for attending a protest in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, has been on hunger strike for almost a year.
CAIRO, Egypt — Mohamed Soltan, an Egyptian-American, will have been on hunger strike for one year this Monday.
Yesterday, images of him unconscious with blood dripping out of his mouth circulated widely on social media. Activists working for his release say the photographs are proof of “increased physical and psychological torture.”
The images prompted an outcry on Twitter, where supporters are using the hashtag #SaveSoltan to draw attention to his plight.
Soltan, 27, was arrested almost 17 months ago as part of the crackdown on supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi and other dissenting voices. Egyptian authorities have jailed tens of thousands in that time.
Though not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood himself, he attended the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa el–Adaweya and is the son of a prominent member. He was arrested from his home 11 days after the sit-in was violently dispersed on Aug. 14, 2013, leaving more than 800 dead, according to Human Rights Watch.
Soltan attended high school in the United States and graduated from Ohio State in 2012 with a degree in economics. He later campaigned to elect US President Barack Obama, to whom he penned a letter from prison in late 2013.
Since then his health has deteriorated radically.
Though Soltan had told his family that he wakes up some mornings with blood in his mouth, it was still a shock for them to see the photographs.
“The first thing that I thought was that Soltan is at the last level,” said Sara Mohamed, a relative, upon seeing the images, “I just remembered the phrase that the doctor told me last time in hospital, that Soltan died and came alive again.”
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The family says they do not have any updated information about Soltan’s medical condition and have only seen one medical report since he began his hunger strike.
They last visited Soltan on Saturday. They said he was pale, in a wheelchair and unable to concentrate. He told them that radio, television and newspapers were banned and that he was not allowed to have any information about what was going on in the outside world.
They begged him to start at least taking some liquids out of fear for his safety.
“He told us yes, [he would] but we don’t know what really happened. We gave him some things [liquids] but we don’t know if he took these things or not,” said a family member.
Soltan’s father, Salah, was detained with him until about a month ago when he was moved to Egypt’s high security “Scorpion” prison.
According to family members, Salah was moved out of his son’s cell following a confrontation with guards when Mohamed fainted and his father started shouting, fearing his son was dead. In December, Salah requested he be punished in place of his son.
Other detainees with foreign passports have applied for deportation under a new presidential decree that allows the president to deport foreign nationals convicted or accused of crimes in Egypt. As a dual-citizen it is unclear whether or not Soltan is eligible for this option.
Egypt’s ministry of interior could not be reached for comment.