The Egyptian authorities said Thursday that the Egyptian-British political detainee Alaa Abdel Fattah was in “good health”, without convincing his family who say he is in danger of death after seven months of hunger strike and continues to demand his release.
Echoing other Western countries, the United States, whose President Joe Biden is due to meet his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday at COP27 in Egypt, expressed “deep concern” about Alaa Abdel Fattah and called for his release.
For several days, the detainee’s relatives have said they fear that he will be force-fed after seven months of swallowing only a glass of tea and a spoonful of honey a day before stopping to eat a week ago and then drink Sunday at the opening of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.
In a statement, the Egyptian prosecutor’s office said that “all vital signs” of the pro-democracy blogger “are normal” and that he “does not need to be transferred to a hospital”. He even went so far as to “question” his hunger strike.
“Lie!” replied his sister Mona Seif on Facebook. “They’re going to say he’s not on a hunger strike, get him back on his feet in secret so he doesn’t die at their hands and they won’t let anyone see him.”
On Thursday, when Alaa Abdel Fattah’s mother, Laila Soueif, showed up for the fourth time this week outside her prison 100 kilometers from Cairo, she was turned away by officers.
They told him that his son was undergoing “medical treatment” and that “the prosecution had been informed”. But not the family or their lawyers, accuses Mona Seif.
For Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights defender, “this means that he is being force-fed”.
The family had glimpsed hope when the prosecutor’s office summoned his lawyer, Khaled Ali, in the morning to issue him a visiting permit. But the latter, dated Wednesday evening, was refused by the prison, according to the lawyer.
– “Free them all” –
Later Khaled Ali urged Mr. Sisi to grant “a presidential pardon to Alaa Abdel Fattah” and other prisoners of conscience. “The authorities… cannot give in to anger or revenge.”
Interrupted for years, presidential pardons resumed in 2022. More than 750 detainees have benefited from them. But almost twice as many were arrested at the same time according to Amnesty International.
The NGO Human Rights Watch described as “cruel, inhuman and degrading” medical treatment “imposed” on the detainee.
Force-feeding someone is considered “torture” under international law.
Icon of the 2011 revolution in Egypt which ousted Hosni Mubarak from power – a popular movement denounced by Mr. Sissi – Alaa Abdel Fattah, who will turn 41 on November 18, was arrested at the end of 2019. He was sentenced to five years jail for spreading “false information” after reposting on Facebook a text, written by another, accusing an officer of torture.
On Thursday, hundreds of COP27 participants in Sharm el-Sheikh, dressed in white like Egyptian prisoners, chanted “Free them all!” in reference to the more than 60,000 political detainees in Egypt according to NGOs.
– Call to demonstrate? –
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.
Faced with the international mobilization for the release of Alaa Abdel Fattah, the counter-campaign is organized.
A deputy took on Sanaa Seif, the other sister of Alaa Abdel Fattah, at COP27 before being expelled by UN security. A lawyer filed a complaint against her for “conspiracy with foreigners” and “false information”.
The Egyptian representation in Geneva protested to the UN which denounced “unfair trials” and “arbitrary arrests” in Egypt.
Egypt is also plunged into a serious economic crisis. Inflation is over 16% and the pound has lost half its value this year.
Enough to fuel the social discontent that could transform into reality a mysterious threat from social networks: the keyword “Manifeste_le_11/11.
No one has claimed this call but the police deployment has been reinforced and at least 151 people have been arrested in recent weeks according to Amnesty.