Alaa Abdel Fattah: Jailed activist hit hard by hunger strike

Alaa Abdel Fattah (undated family folder)

Alaa Abdel Fattah told his family in a letter that he had ended his hunger strike on Monday

The family of imprisoned British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah says his health has “seriously deteriorated” after being allowed to visit him for the first time since he ended his hunger strike.

“We saw him. He was vulnerable, vulnerable and emotional. All he needed was us around him,” tweeted his sister, Sanaa Seif.

Egypt had denied them entry after he stopped drinking water on November 6.

On Tuesday, the family received a note from him saying that he had broken the previous day’s hunger strike.

He gave no reason for his decision, but said he would explain everything during Thursday’s visit to Wadi al-Natroun prison, northwest of Cairo.

Ms Seif said she and her mother, Laila Soueif, were separated from him by a glass screen and forced to talk on a phone “with little room to understand or interact”.

“We will write a detailed statement when we get home,” she added.

Mona Seif, Abdel Fattah’s other sister, who is in the UK, described the news of the visit as “disturbing”.

Abdel Fattah, a 40-year-old blogger and pro-democracy activist, is the most famous of Egypt’s estimated 60,000 political prisoners.

He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly “distributing false news” – a charge condemned as false by human rights groups.

He went on a partial hunger strike in April, consuming up to 100 calories a day, to protest his conditions and the Egyptian authorities’ refusal to allow British diplomats access to consulates.

His family’s last visit to prison was on October 24, a week before he decided to stop eating altogether. On November 6, he also began refusing water to coincide with the start of the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, hoping to increase pressure on Egyptian leaders.

Last Thursday, his mother was told by prison officials that he had undergone an unspecified “medical procedure”. Egypt’s public prosecutor, meanwhile, claimed he was in “good health” without providing any evidence.

This week, Abdel Fattah’s family received handwritten letters from him, dated Saturday and Monday, stating that he had resumed drinking water and then ended his hunger strike.

The British Embassy has been unable to visit Abdel Fattah to check on his health as Egyptian authorities continue to refuse to recognize him as a British citizen – despite British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raising his case with President Abdul Fattah last week al-Sisi at COP27. .

Following Thursday’s news from Abdel Fattah’s family, Amnesty International UK’s Freshta Sharif said: “It is disturbing to hear this and it is a further reminder that UK ministers need to start taking Alaa’s fate much more seriously than they have until now. have done.

“The government can and must ensure Alaa’s release and safe return to the UK, and it must undertake an urgent human rights impact assessment of its trade, security and other relations with Egypt in light of the appalling mistreatment of Alaa and other human rights violations.” ensure that no further harm is caused by existing UK-Egyptian agreements.”

Earlier on Thursday, civil society representatives chanted “Free Alaa! Free them all!” at the conclusion of the COP27 People’s Plenary in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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