Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Freed German-Egyptian blogger, Philip Rizk interrogated
for 4 days, handcuffed and blindfolded
By Paul Schemm
Anti-War, February 19, 2009
The rules were simple: Don't touch the blindfold. The handcuffs stay
Speak only when spoken to — and then only in a low voice.
Newly released German-Egyptian activist Philip Rizk said Thursday that
was interrogated by Egypt's State Security for four days, accused of
being everything from an Israeli spy to a gunrunner for the militant
Rizk was arrested by security officers last Friday after
in a small march outside Cairo calling for an end to the
blockade of the
Gaza Strip — a closure imposed by Egypt and Israel after
gunmen seized control of the Palestinian territory in June 2007.
Rizk was held in solitary confinement for four days while friends,
family and German diplomats inquired about his whereabouts and the
reasons for his detention. Then he was abruptly dropped off at his
apartment before dawn Wednesday.
His detention reflects Egypt's
increasing sensitivity over any criticism
of its policies on Gaza and
Hamas. Hundreds of members of the opposition
Muslim Brotherhood have been
jailed, along with a half dozen young vocal
bloggers like Rizk who put
their criticism online.
Egypt has made no official comment on Rizk's
detention, and he was never
Rizk called himself lucky
because he was held only a few days and wasn't
hurt, ascribing that to
his dual nationality and a spirited campaign for
his release conducted by
friends. Human rights groups allege that
torture, including sexual abuse,
is commonplace for Egypt's
approximately 18,000 political prisoners.
"What happened for a period of four days is that I did nothing much more
than answer questions while being interrogated, or sleeping, or trying
sleep," the 27-year-old Rizk told reporters gathered on his balcony
leafy suburb Thursday, his birthday.
"I was blindfolded the entire
time, was wearing handcuffs the entire
time except for a few occasions,"
usually during questioning, he said.
He added that he was allowed only
Rizk said two men questioned him repeatedly about his
life, his friends
and acquaintances, and his activities. When his answers
they would replace the handcuffs and make him stand, he
"Everything in your head, we want to take it out," he quoted
interrogator as telling him.
Rather than physical abuse, "it
was more the threats of what could
happen to me if I were not to say the
truth," Rizk said.
"I heard sounds of things going on around me,"
including screams, he
said. "I don't know if they were recordings or they
were actually taking
place — people being tortured."
Rizk said his
questioners accused him of spying for Israel and then of
to Israel's staunch enemy, Hamas.
Until his detention, Rizk operated a
blog highlighting the plight of
Palestinians called Tabula Gaza and was a
graduate student in Middle
East studies at the American University in
He said that while he was in custody security officers went to
apartment and took his computers, cameras, portable hard drives and
research notes for his master's thesis. They also broke into e-mail
accounts and read all his mail, he said.
"They've taken my blog down
which I've worked on since 2006. They have
more control over parts of my
life than I do. This is a horrible
feeling. It took some time to sink
in," Rizk said.