Egypt’s dissident jailed over ‘water strikes’, Britain pledges support

Egypt’s dissident jailed over ‘water strikes’, Britain pledges support


Jailed Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah has stopped drinking water, his family said on Sunday, escalating his hunger strike as world leaders descended on the country for the COP27 climate summit.

Anglo-Egyptian Abdel Fattah, a key figure in the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak, is currently serving a five-year sentence for “spreading false news” after spending much of the past decade behind bars .

After a seven-month hunger strike during which he only ate “100 calories a day,” he has been refusing all food since Tuesday and started a “water strike” on Sunday, his sister Sanaa Seif said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Seif in a letter on Saturday that Britain would use the global summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to lobby for her brother’s release.

Amnesty International chief Agnes Callamard said Sunday “Alaa Abdel Fattah must be released” and warned his death in prison could be imminent.

“There isn’t much time, at best 72 hours,” she said in Cairo. “If they don’t (release Abdel Fattah), that death will be in every single discussion in this COP.”

– ‘Too late’ –

Tens of thousands of participants, including around 90 heads of state and government, are expected to attend the UN climate summit in the remote Egyptian holiday resort from Sunday to November 18th.

Sunak, who is also scheduled to attend the conference, “must understand the urgency” of securing Abdel Fattah’s release, Seif told Britain’s Sky News on Sunday.

“After the conference it might be too late.”

In his letter, Sunak Seif said her brother “remains a priority for the UK government, both as a human rights defender and as a British citizen”.

“Britain’s participation in COP27 is another opportunity to raise your brother’s case with the Egyptian leadership,” he added.

The British government “is doing everything we can to resolve the Abdel Fattah case,” Sunak said.

Abdel Fattah obtained British citizenship in prison from his British-born mother in April.

Cairo has been widely criticized for its human rights record since it was announced as host of the COP27 climate summit last year.

Germany on Sunday also accused Egypt of failing to meet its human rights obligations and called on the COP27 host to release Abdel Fattah and his lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer.

Human rights groups estimate that there are around 60,000 political prisoners behind bars in Egypt, many in brutal conditions and overcrowded cells, Cairo has denied allegations.

Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal was briefly detained on Monday as he marched from Cairo to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit site.

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