The sister of Egyptian-British hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah landed in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday to campaign for his release as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other world leaders flew in for the COP27 climate summit.
Sunak has said he would raise Abd el-Fattah’s case with Egypt’s leadership. Abd el-Fattah had informed his family that he would stop drinking water on Sunday in an escalation of his protest. “I don’t know if we’re talking about hours or days, I’m really, really scared,” said Sanaa Seif, Abd el-Fattah’s sister, who arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh in the early hours of Monday.
She said she had come to the summit “to be a kind of physical, embarrassing reminder of my brother who is right now dying, both for the British authorities and the Egyptian authorities. “I’m just worried it may be too late,” she added. “I imagine this is something that should have been resolved before the prime minister ever set foot in Egypt.”
Abd el-Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising but has been detained for most of the period since. Sentenced most recently in December 2021 to five years on charges of spreading false news, he has been on hunger strike for 220 days against his detention and prison conditions. Egyptian officials have not responded to Reuters’ phone calls for comment on Abd el-Fattah’s case. They said previously that he was receiving meals and was moved to a prison with better conditions earlier this year.
Moustafa Bakry, a pro-government member of Egypt’s parliament, said Sunak’s pledge to intervene was “manifest interference” in Egypt’s internal affairs and that Abd el-Fattah had been sentenced “according to the law”. Abd el-Fattah’s family said he was only consuming minimal calories and some fibre to sustain himself earlier in the year. After family visits in October, Sanaa Seif said: “He looks very weak, he’s fading away slowly, he looks like a skeleton.”
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was also at COP27, said on Monday he had pressed for consular access and for Abd el-Fattah’s release when he was still in office. “I raised it most recently, personally with President (Abdel Fattah al-) Sisi just a few weeks ago when I was still prime minister…President Sisi did seem to me to be open to discussion,” Johnson said.
Some rights campaigners have criticised the decision for Egypt to host COP27, citing Cairo’s long crackdown on political dissent in which rights groups say tens of thousands have been detained. They have also raised concern over access and space for protests at the United Nations climate talks. Sisi has said security measures were needed to stabilise Egypt after the 2011 uprising. Egypt is hoping to raise its diplomatic profile by hosting the climate talks.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)