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Clock ticking for jailed Egypt activist on starvation strike

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — The household of one among Egypt’s prime jailed pro-democracy activists warn that the clock is ticking on his life as they plead with world leaders on the U.N. local weather convention to press Egypt for his launch.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah — who has spent many of the previous decade in jail due to his criticism of its rulers and final yr was sentenced to 5 extra years over a retweet — escalated a months-long starvation strike. He utterly halted all consumption of energy, then stopped consuming water Sunday, the convention’s first day.

Sanaa Seif, his youngest sister, stated Tuesday that the household fears the Egyptian authorities might resort to power feeding her brother to maintain him alive to keep away from the embarrassment of him dying whereas the nation is beneath the worldwide highlight.

“Force feeding is torture. Nothing should happen against his will as long as he’s able to say to say so,” she advised The Related Press on the sidelines of the convention within the seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Seif, who has been imprisoned in Egypt for her activism previously as properly and now lives in Britain, got here to Sharm el-Sheikh to lift her brother’s case, chatting with worldwide media and different activists. Amnesty Worldwide warned that he might die inside days if not freed.

The household has been urgent the British authorities to win Abdel-Fattah’s launch and produce him again to the U.Okay., the place he additionally has citizenship. In a letter to his household asserting his water strike, Abdel-Fattah stated he was satisfied the Egyptian authorities doesn’t intend to free him and that the highlight of the convention was the one alternative to power his case — and that he was prepared to die if not freed.

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“I want to be here as a reminder to them (world leaders) that there is this man dying over there and you’re all complicit. And you will have blood on your hands. And that’s why I’m here,” Seif stated.

On the Sharm el-Sheikh gathering, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised the activist’s case of their talks with the Egyptian chief, their workplaces stated, although Sunak prevented press questions on the matter.

Abdel-Fattah rose to prominence with many years of pro-democracy activism, significantly within the 2011 uprisings that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and swept elsewhere within the Mideast.

To many, his imprisonment was one other signal of Egypt’s return to autocratic rule beneath President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, an in depth ally to many Western governments. Since 2013, el-Sissi’s authorities has waged a fierce crackdown on dissent, arresting hundreds and imposing tight restrictions on impartial teams and the media.

Days earlier than the local weather convention started, one other jailed activist, Alaa al-Salmi, died in jail after being on a starvation strike for 2 months, his household stated. Rights teams say poor circumstances and abuses are rife in Egypt’s prisons and plenty of have died in custody.

Abdel-Fattah has been jailed repeatedly beneath completely different governments for lobbying for civil rights. After el-Sissi’s authorities just about banned protests, he served a five-year jail sentence on fees of participating in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer.

He was launched in 2019 however inside just a few months, he was arrested once more after he retweeted information about one other prisoner’s loss of life. On the time, authorities had been arresting dozens of activists after a uncommon outbreak of anti-government protests — although most, like Abdel-Fattah, weren’t concerned. In December, he was convicted on fees of spreading false information and sentenced to 5 extra years in jail.

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For the second day Tuesday, his mom, Laila Soueif, went to the jail the place his son is held to acquire proof that he’s nonetheless alive. She waited for a lot of hours outdoors the jail for a letter from Abdel-Fattah, however she was advised that he refused to write down one.

“There is a blackout,” his aunt Ahdaf Soueif wrote on Fb late Tuesday. “Officers said Alaa was well, no force-feeding was happening, but no letter.”

Returning was a danger for Seif as properly. Throughout her final go to to Cairo, safety officers stopped her for hours on the airport earlier than permitting her entry. She stated she was not stopped when she arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday and has not been harassed. She stated she might see she was being adopted.

“I stopped making these calculations … because when you’re not left with many choices you really have nothing to lose. And this is where the Egyptian regime has put us,” she stated.

At a press convention she gave Tuesday, a pro-government Egyptian lawmaker tried to disrupt issues, taking the microphone and shouting that her brother was a legal not a political prisoner and that she was inciting international governments in opposition to Egypt. U.N. safety eliminated him from the room.

Later Tuesday at an occasion on Egypt’s human rights scenario, a gaggle of activists wore white T-shirts with “#FREEALAA”. In addition they chanted “Free Alaa,” earlier than voices had been heard from the gang shouting in Arabic: “Alaa is a terrorist,” “Alaa is a killer.”

Hossam Bahgat, a number one Egyptian rights defender and the manager director of the Egyptian Initiative for Private Rights, known as for all individuals within the COP27 to focus on what he described as “a full-scale human rights crisis” in Egypt.

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“We are asking them to join us in our demands for the Egyptian government to accelerate the release of political prisoners and save the life of the Alaa Abdel-Fattah and release him,” he stated.

Western governments have lengthy been reluctant to place heavy strain on el-Sissi’s authorities over human rights and their officers usually contend that behind-the-scenes negotiation is simpler on prisoner releases.

Macron stated that el-Sissi advised him of their assembly that he was dedicated to making sure that “his health be preserved.”

“I’m telling it with much caution, I hope that the coming weeks and months will bring results,” stated the French president.

Egyptian Overseas Minister Sameh Shukry gave no signal Egypt was contemplating a launch.

Chatting with the U.S. information channel CNBC, Shukry stated Abdel-Fattah can be supplied “the health care that is available to all inmates.” He stated that the starvation and water strike was “a matter of a personal choice” and steered it may not be actual. He additionally steered the Egyptian authorities doesn’t formally acknowledge his U.Okay. citizenship.

“The solution is very, very simple: either put him on a plane to London or give him consular access. Allow the British embassy to see him,” she stated. “I don’t trust the prison authorities.”

She doesn’t take into consideration the worst state of affairs: The loss of life of her brother.

“It is not over until it is over. As long as he is still breathing alive, then there is room to save him. And that’s the only thing in my mind,” she stated.

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