To stave off madness, Maajid Nawaz organised daily races between two pebbles flicked haphazardly across the floor of his solitary confinement cell. By night, he studied the stars through a skylight in the roof of his Egyptian prison. He had no lights, no toilet and no sheets. For months he talked to himself; his only other constant companions were cockroaches.
Under interrogation, along with two other Britons, he was forced to listen to the screams of inmates as they were tortured. One colleague, Reza Pankhurst, had electric shocks administered to him. Another, Ian Nisbet, was beaten. All were forced to sign confessions that they say were fictitious.
Their introduction to the Egyptian penal system started with a jarring awakening in the early hours of April Fool’s Day 2002, as state security officers bearing machine guns burst into their homes to arrest them. Four weeks ago, they were released. They have returned to Britain with a unique insight into the relationship between the United Kingdom and one of its closest allies in the Middle East.