The sister of one of Egypt’s top jailed activists warned Tuesday that the clock was ticking on his life as she pleaded with world leaders at the U.N. climate conference to press Egypt for the release of Alaa Abdel-Fattah.
Abdel-Fattah has spent most of the past decade in prison because of his criticism of his country’s rulers and last year was sentenced to five more years over a retweet.
“He’s not in prison for the Facebook post they charged him with”, his youngest sister Sanaa Seif said during a press conference.
“He’s in prison because he’s someone who makes people believe the world can be a better place. He’s someone trying to make the world a better place.”
She revealed that her family fears the Egyptian government could resort to force feeding her brother to keep him alive to avoid the embarrassment of him dying while the country is under the international spotlight.
“Force feeding is torture. Nothing should happen against his will as long as he’s able to say to say so,” she told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the conference in the seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Tuesday urged the Government to immediately release Abdel Fattah “from prison and provide him with the necessary medical treatment”.
The 40-year-old has halted all intake of calories, then stopped drinking water on the UN Climate conference’s first day.
A leading Egyptian rights defender urged participants in the COP27 to highlight what he calls Egypt’s ‘full-scale human rights crisis’.
“There has been some positive signals over the past few months, probably in the build-up to the COP27 taking place in Egypt”, Hossam Bahgat started.
“We’ve seen about 800 political prisoners released and the president calling for a national dialogue with opposition figures and civil society. However, during those same six months, more people were arrested on political charges than those that were released”, he nuanced.
“At the end of the six months, we have 800 people released, but 1500 people arrested. The same kinds of violations are continuing as we speak right now”, Hossam Bahgat concluded.
“Force his case”
Abdel-Fattah’s family has been pressing the British government to win his release and bring him back to the U.K., where he also has citizenship.
In a letter to his family announcing his water strike, Abdel-Fattah said he was convinced the Egyptian government doesn’t intend to free him and that the spotlight of the conference was the only opportunity to force his case— and that he was willing to die if not freed.
Days before the climate conference began, another jailed activist, Alaa al-Salmi, died in prison after being on a hunger strike for two months, his family said.
Rights groups say poor conditions and abuses are rife in Egypt’s prisons and many have died in custody.