Concern is growing over the fate of the Egyptian-British political prisoner Alaa Abdel Fattah, in danger of death after seven months of hunger strike. His relatives have said for several days that they fear that the pro-democracy blogger will be force-fed.
On Thursday, when his mother Laila Soueif showed up for the fourth time this week outside Wadi Natrun prison, 100 kilometers northwest of Cairo, she was turned away by officers. They told him that his son, who has not been drinking since the opening of COP27 in Egypt on Sunday, was “under medical treatment” and that “the prosecution had been informed”. Neither the family nor the lawyers had been notified, accuses Alaa Abdel Fattah’s sister, Mona Seif.
For Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the country’s largest human rights NGO, “it means he is being force-fed”. A senior adviser to Joe Biden, who is due to meet his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi this Friday, also expressed Thursday his “deep concern” about Alaa Abdel Fattah.
“Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”
The family saw hope when, in the morning, the prosecution summoned Khaled Ali, a great figure on the left and lawyer for Alaa Abdel Fattah, to issue him a visit permit while the last meeting between the activist and his defense dates back to March 2020, according to Mona Seif.
Permit in hand, the lawyer went to the prison where “for the second time, the Ministry of the Interior refused a visit permit issued by the justice”, he wrote on Facebook. The prison authority considered that the permit, dated the previous evening, was no longer valid on Thursday, he added.
“The Egyptian authorities who imprisoned Alaa Abdel Fattah for a simple Facebook post also want to impose cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on him, and force him to undergo medical measures against his will,” reacted Adam Coogle, from the NGO Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
“Our mother needs to be able to see him, or a representative of the British Embassy so that we can know in what state of health he really is”, alarmed Mona Seif.
Because for lack of news, the family is worried: has Alaa been transferred to another prison, to the prison hospital or is he simply no longer in a condition to be seen?
As of Wednesday, his aunt, the writer Ahdaf Soueif, had demanded his transfer “in an emergency to the Qasr al-Aini university hospital” in Cairo, arguing that the prison hospital was not equipped to treat a patient. who has only ingested 100 calories a day since April. The Egyptian prosecutor’s office, however, said Thursday that “all vital signs” of Alaa Abdel Fattah “are normal” and that he is “in good health”. He “does not need to be transferred to a hospital,” continued the prosecution in a statement, which also “questioned” his hunger strike.
Intensification of mobilization
The mobilization increases while his defenders give him only a few days to live, unless he is force-fed, which is considered by international law as “torture” and even a “crime against ‘Humanity’.
On Thursday, hundreds of COP27 participants dressed in white like Egyptian prisoners, in Sharm el-Sheikh, more than 600 km south of Wadi Natrun, chanted “Release them all!” in reference to the more than 60,000 political detainees in Egypt, according to NGOs.
At the same time, Italian activist Giorgio Caracciolo was “banned from going to COP27 despite having a valid visa”, announced the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The question of prisoners in Egypt, 135th out of 140 countries in the world ranking of the rule of law of the World Justice Project, is now unavoidable at COP27. Several Western leaders have called for the release of Alaa Abdel Fattah from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.