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Alaa Abdel Fattah
Alaa Abdel Fattah is one of Egypt's leading pro-democracy activistsImage: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP

Egypt: Authorities intervene in dissident's hunger strike

November 10, 2022

Detained pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah has been refusing to eat or drink. His family now says Egyptian authorities have intervened medically to sustain him.


The family of British-Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel-Fattah said on Thursday that prison authorities informed them that "medical intervention" was taken to maintain his health.

Family members had recently demanded to know Abdel-Fattah's condition amid what they said were "rumors of force-feeding."

The nature of the medical intervention was not known.

Abdel-Fattah, one of Egypt's leading pro-democracy activists, is serving a five-year prison sentence for "spreading false news" by sharing a Facebook post about police brutality. He has been hunger striking for several months.

In a statement Thursday, Egypt's public prosecution said a medical report showed Abdel-Fattah was in "good health."

"All (his) vital signs ... are normal," the statement said, adding that Abdel-Fattah "does not need to be transferred to hospital."

The activist's mother has been visiting the prison northwest of Cairo daily this week, but has been unable to see him. She has called for him to be transferred to a civilian hospital rather than a prison facility.

Abdel-Fattah's laywer, Khaled Ali, said authorities at the jail had refused to allow him to visit his client, despite a permit from the prosecutor's office. Ali said Thursday that officials told him the permit presented was dated 9 November and had therefore expired.

Ali and Abdel-Fattah's other legal representatives have not seen him since his court sessions, which ended late last year.

Monthslong hunger strike 

The 40-year-old has been on hunger strike for 220 days, since April 2, protesting against his detention and prison conditions. 

He informed his family about plans to stop drinking water as the COP27 climate conference began in Egypt on Sunday. 

Abdel-Fattah rose to fame during the 2011 pro-democracy uprising, famously known as Arab Spring, which ultimately toppled Egypt's long-time President Hosni Mubarak. 

The activist has spent the majority of the past 10 years in prison. Some see his detention as symbolic of Egypt's return to an autocratic rule. 

Egypt: Family fears for life of activist Abdel Fattah

International calls for release

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been expressing concern and calling for Abdel-Fattah's release, while United Nations rights chief Volker Turk has warned the activist's "life is in great danger."

The White House has also voiced "deep concern," with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying Washington was "in high level communication with the Egyptian government on this case," and wanted to see Abdel-Fattah freed. 

The hashtag #FreeAlaa has been widely used on Twitter, as activists at COP27 have ended their speeches with the words "you have not yet been defeated," a reference to the title of Abdel-Fattah's book.

Responding to questions from The Associated Press news agency about the international focus on Abdel-Fattah, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said attention should instead be on the COP27 climate talks, which Egypt is currently hosting.

"I concentrate on highlighting the importance of the COP (climate talks) and trying to … focus (the) attention of the parties and the international community and the civil society on the existential challenge related to climate change," AP quoted him as saying. "I think it is beneficial for achieving our objectives that we continue to focus on this issue. This is why we are here.''

Shoukry warned that shifting focus to other issues, such as that of Abdel-Fattah's case, could distract and "give justification to maybe those who would prefer to concentrate on other issues to avoid having to deal with what they need to do, how they need to implement their obligations and responsibilities.''

Abdel-Fattah's family has been making use of the international media presence in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where this year's COP is held, to campaign for his release. His sister held a press conference on Tuesday on the sidelines of the climate summit.

According to human rights groups, there could be up to 60,000 political prisoners held in Egypt. Cairo denies these accusations, and insists all prisoners in the country face criminal charges.

Abdel Fattah is one of many: Human rights activist Hossam Baghat

los/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Alaa Abdel-Fattah had been hospitalized. The activist has not been transferred to hospital, according to Egypt's public prosecutor.

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