“Something Out of a Horror Movie”: Egyptian Security Forces Tortured and Raped American-Citizen Detainee, Rights Group Says

Khaled Hassan’s case is the most brazen example of Egypt abusing a U.S. citizen. But he’s not alone.


Khaled Hassan.

Photo: Courtesy of Human Rights Watch

Egypt’s security forces raped and tortured a U.S. citizen, detaining him in secret for four months, according to a detailed Human Rights Watch report published on October 11.

In interviews with Human Rights Watch researchers from prison, Khaled Hassan, an Egyptian-American limousine driver, said Egyptian officials from the country’s feared National Security Agency beat him, stripped him naked, hung him by his arms, and shocked him on his testicles. He also said Egyptian security forces anally raped him with a wooden stick and, on a separate occasion, ordered another security agent to anally rape him again. The human rights group published photos of what it said were Hassan’s wounds from the torture.

“It’s something out of a horror movie.”

“It’s something out of a horror movie,” said Mohamed Soltan, a former political prisoner in Egypt and the head of the group Freedom Initiative, which advocates for Egyptian prisoners. “This is definitely an escalation. It’s sad to say, but had Khaled not had his American citizenship, this would have been just another case. This has happened to Egyptians in the past. But it’s become normalized.”

The Egyptian embassy in Washington did not return requests for comment. Egyptian authorities denied that they tortured Hassan in statements sent to Human Rights Watch.

The shocking allegations underscore how security forces under Egyptian strongman President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have waged a scorched-earth campaign of torture and enforced disappearances targeting their own citizens. The alleged torture of Hassan is yet another instance of U.S.-backed allies in the Middle East running roughshod over human rights — even when the victims are linked to the U.S.

Over the past several weeks, news reports have sketched out the details of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident journalist. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and never emerged, according to media reports. Unnamed Turkish security sources have said that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi security officials in the consulate — a charge that Saudi Arabia denies. While the disappearance raised some outrage in Congress, the administration of President Donald Trump, which has grown particularly close to a handful of U.S.-allied Arab dictatorships, has done little to address the events.

“We are deeply concerned by these reports,” a State Department spokesperson told The Intercept when contacted about Hassan’s case. “We are providing all appropriate Consular services. Consular officers from U.S. Embassy Cairo have visited him several times since learning of his incarceration.”

Hassan’s case is the most brazen example of Egypt abusing a U.S. citizen. But he’s not alone. There at least 16 other American citizens being held in Egyptian jail, according to Soltan.

While Egypt has released a handful of Americans in the past, they have also doubled down on the detention of others. Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced Moustafa Kassem, another Egyptian-American dual citizen, to 15 years in jail, despite Vice President Mike Pence urging Sisi to let him go. Kassem, a diabetic, is currently on a hunger strike and as a result, has been placed in solitary confinement. On September 26, seven members of Congress sent a letter to Pence, asking him to pressure Sisi to release Kassem.

Khaled Hassan’s case has not gotten much public attention from the U.S. government, but Soltan, the Egyptian prisoner advocate, told The Intercept that Pence aware of it. “They’re following it,” he said. “They’re glad there’s media attention on this.”

One of Hassan’s brothers, who asked that his name not be used, said he wants the Trump administration to do more to help.

“I voted for Trump. I believe he was very clear about national security and all that stuff. But this is also part of national security — a U.S. citizen being kidnapped abroad,” he said. “My message to the president or the vice president is, do something please, inquire about him. A phone call from the vice president or the president himself to the president of Egypt inquiring about a U.S. citizen about why he’s been kidnapped would make a big difference.”

Hassan was arrested on January 8 in the coastal city of Alexandria as he was trying to meet his brother. His family had no idea where he was until May 3, when Hassan appeared before an Egyptian military prosecutor.

Eleven days after his arrest, Egyptian security forces raided his Alexandria home, where his wife and three children were staying. The security officials pointed guns at the children and told Hassan’s wife, Liuba Skateeff, to leave the country, which she did later that week. The security forces also hit Skateeff.

“We’ve been going through tough times. The kids have to suffer watching the Egyptian authorities breaking into their apartment, invading their bedrooms, breaking their house, searching their belongings and clothes, and pushing their mom in front of them, slapping her around,” Khaled Hassan’s brother, told The Intercept. “They were in shock.”

Egypt accused Hassan of being a member of an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS. Under torture, Hassan confessed to spying on Egypt’s military for ISIS’s offshoot in the Sinai province, recruiting foreigners for the group and financing them.

Hassan now denies the charges. He is on trial alongside hundreds of others. Egyptian authorities have not presented any specific evidence against Hassan, according to Human Rights Watch.

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