News of the COP27 summit. UN chief warns of “climate hell”.

News of the COP27 summit. UN chief warns of “climate hell”.

Credit…Khaled Dessouki / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt. World leaders, government negotiators, climate scientists and other dignitaries are unlikely to see his name anywhere in Sharm el-Sheikh, the beach resort town hosting the COP27 summit. But Ala Abd El FattahEgypt’s most famous revolutionary voice and its most famous political prisoner is making his absence felt.

Mr. Abd El Fattah, an activist and software developer who has been jailed for most of the past nine years for denouncing Egypt’s authoritarian government, went on hunger strike in April hoping to pressure officials to release him. For about seven months, he consumed only milk, honey and tea. In late October, her family said she stopped eating altogether.

On Sunday, he began refusing water, possibly bringing himself closer to death just as the UN climate conference began.

“I have made the decision to escalate when I see fit for my struggle for freedom for myself and other Egyptian prisoners of conscience,” Mr. Abd El Fattah’s family members said in a recent letter. , which they received last week. He called his prisoners “victims of a regime incapable of overcoming its crises except through repression, incapable of reproducing itself except through imprisonment.”

In the spotlight at COP27, Mr. Abd El Fattah’s supporters have been given an opportunity. The government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, mindful of its international reputation, was releasing dozens of other high-profile political prisoners in the run-up to the summit. Sensing an opportunity, Mr Abd El Fattah’s family rallied Nobel laureates, celebrities and prominent climate activists to call for his release and pressure senior politicians in Britain, where he holds dual citizenship, to raise the issue with the Egyptian government.

However, everything was in vain. Egyptian officials denied that Mr. Abd El Fattah was on hunger strike or, until recently, that they held any political prisoners at all.

Earlier this year, Egyptian authorities moved him to another prison and improved his detention conditions, removing the strict ban on books, newspapers, hot water, bedding and outdoor exercise that had partly prompted his hunger strike. However, they continued to deny visits by British consular officers.

The political chaos in Britain, which has had three prime ministers since September, has not helped. Britain’s new leader, Rishi Sunak, wrote in a letter to Sana Seif, one of Mr Abd El Fattah’s sisters, on Saturday that he would “continue to emphasize to President Sisi the importance we place on a swift resolution to the Alaa case and an end to his unacceptable attitude”.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson again called on Monday for Mr. Abd El Fattah’s release. “I firmly believe that he should be released and have consular access,” Mr Johnson said at an event organized by The New York Times on the sidelines of COP27.

But Ms Seif and her family said it may be too late to discuss Mr Abd El Fattah’s case at COP27.

Born into a family of dissidents, Mr. Abd El Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising when he participated in and regularly tweeted about mass anti-government protests via @Alaa on Twitter. His revolutionary activities made him a hero to many young Egyptians and a target for the authorities; In 2006, 2011 and 2013, he was arrested due to various protests, critical articles and posts on social networks. His last arrest took place in September 2019.

He was held without trial for two years before being tried and quickly convicted in December 2021 for posting on Facebook about rights abuses in prison.

Max Berak embedded report.

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