The family of hunger striking Egyptian prisoner Alaa Abd-el Fattah has demanded proof that he is still alive. Their call comes as British prime minister Rishi Sunak and other world leaders enjoyed the hospitality of his jailer president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Alaa, a prominent activist and participant in the Egyptian revolution, has been refusing liquids since Sunday—the first day of the Cop27 climate conference in Egypt.
He has been in prison for much of the past eight years, after el-Sisi launched a murderous counter-revolution, and began a hunger strike in April. He is just one of the hundreds of Egyptian activists jailed by el-Sisi’s regime.
Speaking on the sidelines of Cop27, Alaa’s sister Sanaa Seif demanded to see proof that he was still alive, but feared he was being force fed. It came after el-Sisi reportedly told French president Emmanuel Macron he would make sure Alaa’s health is “preserved”.
“I’m really worried from these comments that they’re implying they will be force feeding Alaa,” Sanaa said. “Force feeding is torture, and nothing should happen that’s against Alaa’s will.
“We need proof of life. The scenario I imagine is that Alaa is handcuffed somewhere and put on an intravenous drip against his will. That would be torture, and he shouldn’t be living that.”
Alaa has been jailed twice by the el-Sisi regime—first in 2015 for violating protest laws two years earlier when el-Sisi launched his coup. He was released on probation in 2019, then jailed again in 2021 on charges of spreading false news.
The Free Alaa campaign website says he has been kept in a cell with no access even to sunlight. “He is not allowed a radio. He is not allowed a watch. He is not allowed exercise time outside of his cell. His visits are limited to one family member per month, for twenty minutes, through a glass barrier, without a moment of privacy or physical contact,” it says.
Alaa is also a British citizen but has so far been denied a consular visit. His treatment was an embarrassment for Sunak, who said he spoke to el-Sisi about Alaa’s case.
But in all the years of Alaa’s imprisonment, Britain has done nothing to pressure Egypt into releasing him—or any other jailed activist. Instead, as a key ally of the West, Britain is keen to stay friendly with Egypt and to support it politically.
Sanaa has previously criticised the British government for not doing enough to release Alaa. “Egypt and Britain have a very strong relationship,” she said. recently “The UK has helped Egypt a lot in the logistics of COP. But they’re not willing to show any teeth.”
Alaa—and all those locked up by el-Sisi’s brutal regime—should be freed.
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