A U.S. citizen imprisoned in Egypt following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi is near death after refusing to eat for 230 days, say human rights activists and his family, who are pleading for his immediate release.
Mohamed Soltan, 26, who holds dual citizenship and graduated from The Ohio State University, was arrested in August 2013 during a crackdown against pro-Morsi supporters in Egypt's Rabaa Al Adeweya Square. Soltan was working at the time with a media committee that was reporting violations by security forces against against pro-Morsi supporters since the former Egyptian president's ousting, according to Amnesty International.
Soltan was initially moved from prison to prison to conceal his whereabouts. He was later placed in solitary confinement and imprisoned at al-Aqrab maximum security prison as punishment for going on a hunger strike, the human rights group said. Soltan is one of 86 detained activists who are using hunger strikes to protest the inhumane conditions under which they are held and the repressive law that prompted their arrest.
According to a website devoted to his release, Soltan was able to communicate with family and told them he was routinely beaten with rocks and clubs.
"The brutality with which I have been treated has been mind boggling," the website, #Free_Soltan, quotes Soltan as saying. "During the day, soldiers and police would get in two straight lines, and we would have to run in between them as they beat us with rocks and sticks."
"They put us in jail cells with what must have been 60 other inmates, and it was terribly hot and water was not made available to us," he said. "I saw an inmate suffer a heart attack right before my eyes and not receive proper medical attention. The surgical wound on my arm was open and oozing, and not one of the guards seemed to care because I was labeled a political prisoner."
Soltan's health has since dramatically deteriorated following his 230-day hunger strike, but Egyptian prison officials refuse to provide medical care as he faces imminent organ failure, Geoffrey Mock, Egyptian country specialist for Amnesty International, told FoxNews.com. His lawyer said Soltan is given medical treatment when he loses consciousness, then taken back to his cell when he recovers.
It was not clear what medical treatment was involved but without nutrients and water, most hunger strikers could not last more than several months.
"The conditions under which he's being held is cruel and callous but it's also unlawful under Egyptian law," Mock said Tuesday. "He needs to be released immediately."
"The treatment he's getting is consistent with the treatment of the more than 16,000 detainees [in Egypt]," he said. "In many cases it amounts to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that falls short of human rights standards."
"The treatment of all prisoners has to meet Egyptian law -- meaning detainees must get adequate medical care and be granted access to family and lawyers and prompt and fair trials," he added. "We have great concerns about the fairness of the trials that have happened in the aftermath of Morsi's removal.
"He's being held for his right of freedom of expression," Mock said.
According to Amnesty International, Soltan was charged with "funding the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in" and disseminating "false information" that escalated unrest in the country. Security forces stormed his home in Cairo on Aug. 25, 2013, searching for his father, Salah Soltan, a professor at Cairo University and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the group.
Unable to find his father, they arrested Mohamed Soltan and three of his friends.
Soltan's sister, Hanaa, who lives in Falls Church, Va., was not immediately available for comment when contacted Tuesday.
Soltan, who holds dual U.S.-Egyptian citizenship, grew up in Kansas City and attended The Ohio State University with a focus in economics. The #Free_Soltan website describes the young man as a peace activist who was the president of the Muslim Student Association while in college and involved in many charitable events. The website also claims that Mohamed Soltan is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"His activism led him to be involved on Medical Aid convoys to the Middle East," the website said, noting that he traveled to the outskirts of Jordan in 2012 where he helped provide aid to Syrian refugees.
"Mohamed's dedication to both his identities, American and Egyptian, have shown through in his activism," the website said. "His dedication to his American identity led him to stay active in local community work in Columbus, Ohio. His dedication to his Egyptian identity led him to leave Ohio State for a semester and postpone his graduation in order to join millions of Egyptians who called for the ouster of the long standing dictator Hosni Mubarak."
Soltan was reportedly arrested in Egypt 10 days after being shot in the arm during a crackdown on a protest camp in August 2013.