A top Egyptian police official has denied a Friday report in the U.K.’s The Times newspaper accusing Egypt of detaining more than 600 children in a subterranean prison at a police base north of Cairo.
“Such a report is groundless and does not deserve a reply,” Gen. Sayyed Shafiq, the head of the Public Security Department at the Ministry of Interior, told The Cairo Post Saturday morning.
The Times report said the children, aged between 14 and 17, were detained in freezing cells in Banha, the capital of the Qalyubia governorate in northeastern Egypt. It said the Central Security Forces ran the camp, and added the children were being held and investigated by authorities on charges of joining terrorist groups, blocking roads and assaulting police officers.
Despite Shafiq’s denial, the Egyptian Coalition on Children’s Rights (ECCR) said it has filed a lawsuit against the government over the charges it had detained the children.
ECCR legal advisor Nemaa Abu el-Ela told The Cairo Post Saturday the coalition—which includes around 70 children’s rights NGOs—filed a lawsuit against detaining the children to the attorney general’s office three weeks ago.
She added the coalition also submitted to the Ministry of Interior a report about the situation of children detained three weeks ago, and said she believed the ministry would reply on the report soon. The children were detained and have been in custody since the events of June 30, 2013, according to Ela.
The eighth chapter of Egypt’s Child Law provides that a minor who was arrested shall be detained for a “specific period,” provided with necessary legal assistance, a suitable place for detention that doesn’t include adult detainees and should be referred to juvenile courts. Also, article 26 of the Criminal Code says a minor shall not be detained for more than 24 hours.