Egypt: Jailed pro-democracy activist receives UK citizenship | News | DW | 11.04.2022

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Egypt: Jailed pro-democracy activist receives UK citizenship

Alaa Abdel-Fattah's family hopes that his UK citizenship can secure his release from prison. The activist has spent much of the past decade behind bars, along with many other Egyptian political prisoners.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah photographed in 2014

Alaa Abdel-Fattah is one of Egypt's most prominent activists

The Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who rose to prominence during the 2011 revolution, has been given British citizenship, his family said on Monday.

Abdel-Fattah has been in prison for three and a half years and the move is seen as a means to pressure the Egyptian government to grant his release.

The activist began a hunger strike at the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to protest the conditions in which he is being held.

"For two and a half years, he has been kept in a cell without sunlight, with no books, no exercise. His visitations have been cut to one family member, for 20 minutes a month, through glass, with not a moment of privacy or contact," his sisters said in a statement.

Who is Alaa Abdel-Fatah?

Abdel-Fattah has spent much of the past 10 years in prison. He had also been arrested under former President Hosni Mubarak — who was overthrown in the 2011 revolution — and Mohammed Morsi, who briefly served as president before he was ousted in 2013.

In December, the activist was sentenced to five years in prison after a court convicted him of spreading false news. Separate charges accuse the 40-year-old of misusing social media and being a member of a terrorist group.

Egyptian security forces stand guard outside one of the entrances of Tora prison, in Cairo

Abdel-Fattah's family say he is being held in inhumane conditions in Cairo's Tora prison

His family and Egyptian lawyers said in 2021 that Abdel-Fattah had been tortured inside Cairo's Tora prison.

"This is a British citizen detained unlawfully, in appalling conditions, simply for exercising his basic rights to peaceful expression and association,'' Daniel Furner, one of the family lawyers, told the AP news agency.

Hope for release

Abdel-Fattah obtained British citizenship through his mother, Laila Soueif, who was born in London. She is also a professor of mathematics at Cairo University.

His sisters, Mona and Sanaa, were also given UK citizenship. They said in a statement that their brother has requested to speak with the family's lawyers in the UK "so that they can take all possible legal measures regarding not only the violations he has been subjected to, but all the crimes against humanity he has witnessed during his imprisonment."

The Egyptian government under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has released several political prisoners with dual citizenship in recent years after agreeing to give up their Egyptian citizenship.

But rights groups say about 60,000 political prisoners remain locked up in Egypt.

Watch video 02:34

Satirist Bassem Youssef on Egypt's democracy

ab/fb (AFP, AP)