Swedish tourist: police in Egypt tortured me

A 22-year-old Swedish tourist in Egypt claims he was arrested and tortured for four days by police before escaping when protesters set fire to the building where he was being held, media reported Monday.

Swedish tourist: police in Egypt tortured me
Riot police move on protesters on Cairo on Friday

“They almost killed me. The only thing I wanted was to see my wife and family again before I died,” Aaed Nijim told Swedish tabloid Expressen.

Nijim, who lives in Teckomatorp in southwestern Sweden, also told the local Helsingborgs Dagblad (HD) newspaper that he missed his flight home following his arrest and dramatic escape from an Egyptian jail on Saturday.

Swedish authorities confirmed Monday they had been in contact with a Swede, aged 20 to 25, who “said he had been in prison.”

“We cannot confirm what has happened to him,” foreign ministry spokesman Tobias Nilsson told AFP, adding the man had yet to come in to the embassy for assistance.

Nijim was vacation in Cairo and was taking pictures of a mosque in the al-Abasia suburb of Cairo last Tuesday when police suddenly arrested him, he told the local Helsingbord Dabladet (HD) newspaper.

“They took my camera and drove me to a prison where they hit and threatened me. They took off my clothes and gave electric shocks to my entire body,” he told the newspaper.

Nijim added that all his money and valuables were taken as well. When he asked for permission to contact the Swedish embassy he was threatened and beaten again, according to HD.

“They put a knife to my throat. I’ve never been so afraid,” he told the newspaper.

Nijim told Expressen he was beaten by several officers at the police station and a policeman told him he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he tried to call the Swedish embassy.

“They threatened sexual assault,” he told the paper, alleging also that he had been tortured with electric charges attached to his testicles.

But in the confusion that ensued when the building caught fire on Saturday, Nijim and other prisoners managed to knock down a door and make it out to the streets among the protesters calling for the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

“We couldn’t stay there. The prisoners broke down the doors and started escaping,” he told the newspaper.

Nijim, who was born in Qatar but has lived in Sweden with his parents and siblings for years and holds a Swedish passport, escaped with nothing but a shirt, jacket, socks and now finds himself stranded in Cairo without any money.

While he managed to make contact with the Swedish embassy, he was told that the foreign ministry was unable to help him, according to the newspaper.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Joakim Larsson confirmed that a man did call the Swedish embassy in Cairo, but according to Larsson, the caller wasn’t denied assistance.

Larsson explained that embassy staff urged the man to stay indoors and obey the curfew that was in place at the time of the call.

The embassy also told the man that he should try to visit the embassy the day after when the nighttime curfew was no longer in effect.

“The man more or less demanded that the embassy should come and pick him up in a car, something we, unfortunately, don’t have the ability to do in light of the current situation in Cairo,” said Larsson.

Speaking with the Skånska Dagbladet newspaper, Nijim’s wife, Sandra Persson, expressed her concern over her husband’s well being.

“We’re very worried and haven’t been able to get any help from anyone at the Swedish embassy or the foreign ministry who’ve been in contact with,” she told the newspaper.

“He doesn’t know anyone in Cairo who can help him.”

Nijim is not the only Swede to have had a run in with Egyptian authorities during the recent protests.

Two journalists working for Sveriges Television (SVT) were also detained while recording footage in the Cairo suburbs on Sunday.

Just as reporter Samir Abu Eid and camera operator Pernilla Edholm began filming a demonstration, soldiers intervened, pointing their weapons at Abu Eid’s chest, the Expressen newspaper reports.

While Edholm remained in a vehicle with the team’s driver, Abu Eid was thrown into an armoured military vehicle before being released an hour later.

“I was extremely relieved when we got out of there. Several journalists have found themselves in bad situations in Egypt in recent days,” he told Expressen.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules