“Free Alaa Abdel Fattah or he will die in prison”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Alaa Abdel Fattah, an Egyptian blogger and political activist whose health is worsening by the day as a result of the hunger strike he began on 2 April, three months ago, in protest against his arbitrary detention.

“We urge the Egyptian authorities to free Alaa Abdel Fattah or else he will die,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “We will hold them responsible if his hunger strike proves fatal. The persecution has gone on for too long. It is time for him to be released and reunited with his family before it is too late.”

The Egyptian authorities must also end the judicial harassment of Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was one of the leaders of the January 2011 revolution as well as being a prominent blogger, and who has been imprisoned since September 2019, RSF says. After her visit to the prison on August 16, the blogger's sister, Sanaa Seif, reported that her bother would soon pass to a full hunger strike. Up till now, Abdel Fattah was still ingesting liquids and vitamins. He asked that his visitors no longer supply them, as he waits for his current stock to dry up.  

Alaa Abdel Fattah's sister, Mona Seif, had organized on June 12 a day-long hunger strike to mobilize citizens under the hashtag #SupportAlaa. After that, she continued her own hunger stike for 25 days, in solidarity with her brother.

After visiting him on 13 June Mona Seif, said his condition was declining rapidly, that he had lost of lot of weight and that he was resigned to dying in prison. She said he told her: “You need to get over that notion that you will rescue me, I am going to die here. Focus on how to make my death come with the highest political price.”

On 24 July, Alaa Abdel Fattah's mother, Laila Soueif, went this time to see him, when the Egyptian authorities exceptionally opened the prisons to visitors, as part of the Eid truce. However, she met with the refusal of the prison administration. "After waiting for hours she was told 'Alaa refused the visit'. We have no idea if this is true or another lie to be added to their endless list of lies", Mona reported. The Egyptian authorities have indeed repeatedly lied about Alaa Abdel Fattah's condition, denying for example for several weeks that he was observing a hunger strike.

Abdel Fattah had already been held for more than two years when, in December 2021, he was finally tried and sentenced to five years in prison by a State Security Court, a special tribunal established by the State of Emergency Law, whose verdicts cannot be appealed and can only be overturned by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

RSF expressed deep concern about his mental health three months before his trial, when he completed his second year in pretrial detention and told his lawyer he wanted to end his life.

President Sisi pardoned dozens of political prisoners in late April, in the run-up to the end of Ramadan, but they included only one journalist, Hossam Moanis, who was convicted by a State Security Court in late 2021.

Fattah, who was granted British nationality in April, has said he would be ready to renounce his Egyptian citizenship if that would help him to obtain his release. According to the independent news site Mada Masr, he has spent a combined total of seven years in prison since the 2011 revolution.

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Updated on 25.07.2022