“Dead or free”.  Alaa Abd el Fattah intensifies his hunger strike  Human rights news

“Dead or free”. Alaa Abd el Fattah intensifies his hunger strike Human rights news

“Dead or free”. Alaa Abd el Fattah intensifies his hunger strike Human rights news

The famous Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el Fattah has started a hunger strike. COP27 Climate Summitas supporters say he will either be dead or free when world leaders gather in Sharm el-Sheikh next week.

Abd el-Fattah said in a letter to his family that he would begin a zero-calorie hunger strike on Tuesday and stop drinking water from November 6, when global climate talks begin in the Red Sea city.

“I have decided to intensify my struggle for my freedom and the freedom of all prisoners at the appropriate moment,” he wrote.

His sister Mona Saif said in a video message published on social networks that the decision is irreversible.

“He decided that if they were determined to keep him in prison forever, or until he died, at least he would decide the terms of battle and lead the charge,” he said. “I can’t ask him to stop what he’s doing.”

Abd el-Fattah, an outspoken dissident and a citizen of the United Kingdom, rose to prominence in the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East and toppled Egypt’s long-serving president. Hosni Mubarak.

He was first convicted in 2014 after participating in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. He was released in 2019 after serving a five-year sentence, but was arrested again later that year in a crackdown that followed rare anti-government protests.

In December 2021, he was sentenced to another five years in prison on charges of spreading fake news. He also faces separate charges of misusing social media and joining a “terrorist” group, a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities designated a “terrorist organization” in 2013.

For months, the influential 40-year-old blogger went on a partial hunger strike, consuming just 100 calories a day and a tip: concerns for his health.

The family, which communicates with Abd el-Fattah through weekly letters and infrequent visits, say they fear that if he is not released at the climate conference, he will die without water.

The next visit of the family is scheduled for November 17.

Abd el-Fattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif, staged a sit-in at Britain’s Foreign Office headquarters on Tuesday to urge Britain to take action in his case.

In April, the family announced that he had been granted British citizenship through his mother, Leila Sweif, as a way out of his “impossible ordeal”.

On Twitter, Saif said his brother was not “bluffing”. “He is fed up with the hope of being reunited with us and is angry about the 9 years that were stolen from his life,” he said.

Egypt’s human rights record has come under increasing scrutiny in the run-up to the global climate conference, and Abd el-Fattah’s plight has been highlighted by prominent activists, including Canadian writer Naomi Klein.

“Either Alaa will be free in the coming days or he will die in prison at #COP27 as the world watches,” Klein wrote on Twitter. “His family + friends did everything possible for his release.”

The hashtag #FreeAlaa has become a rallying cry against the government, which has been relentlessly silencing dissent and cracking down on independent organizations with arrests and restrictions for years.

Human Rights Watch said in a report in September that the Egyptian government has severely limited the ability of environmental groups to carry out independent policy, advocacy and field work critical to protecting the country’s natural environment.

These restrictions are said to violate the rights to freedom of assembly and association and threaten Egypt’s ability to meet its environmental and climate commitments.

Abd el-Fattah comes from a family of political activists, lawyers and writers. His late father was one of Egypt’s most tireless lawyers. His sisters, also British citizens, are also political activists, and his aunt is the award-winning novelist Ahdaf Sueif.

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