Egypt Watch

Alaa Abdel-Fatta: Sisi’s headache before COP 27

In its session on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a decision to repeat its call for the release of all arbitrarily detained persons in Egypt, in particular the political and human rights activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah (41 years), who has been arrested since 2019 and has been on a partial hunger strike for nearly 200 days in protest against the allegations as he is subjected to violations inside his prison.

The parliament called on Egypt, which is hosting the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh next November, to improve human rights and uphold fundamental freedoms during and after the conference, particularly regarding freedom of peaceful expression and the right to demonstrate. The European Parliament’s decision came two days after Alaa’s sister, Sana Seif, announced that she would engage in an open sit-in in front of the British Foreign Office in London in protest against the Egyptian authorities’ refusal to allow British officials to visit her brother in his prison cell. Alaa had obtained British citizenship a few months ago through his mother, Laila Soueif. She was born in London in May 1956, as part of the family’s efforts to compel the Egyptian authorities to release him.

“When the British government goes to Egypt next month for the climate conference (COP27), they should return with my brother,” Seif said in an interview with the British newspaper, The Guardian. While the British government spokesman did not comment on whether there were plans regarding a link between Abdel Fattah’s case and the climate conference, he only confirmed that his government “is working hard to secure Abdel Fattah’s release, and raise his case to the highest levels of the Egyptian government.” The sit-in witnessed broad solidarity and international press coverage, in which a member of the British House of Representatives for Tottenham and the shadow foreign minister, David Lamy, participated in it, stressing the need to continue seeking until Alaa’s release from prison in Egypt and his safe return to Britain, and said, “This is our duty towards British citizens.”. Members of the PEN International organization also participated in the sit-in in solidarity with Alaa, calling on the UK Foreign Office to take action to save his life.

Who is Alaa Abdel Fattah?

Alaa Abdel-Fattah is a prominent Egyptian political activist from a family known for its great struggle for human rights. He is also one of the most famous faces of the January 25, 2011 revolution, so he was the target of abuse by all the successive regimes that followed the revolution, as he spent eight of the past ten years in prison for his opposition to human rights violations. According to Abdel-Fattah’s family, the harshest times of arrest he faced were under the rule of President El-Sisi, who claims to be a supporter of human rights, as Alaa was detained for seven years during his reign, the last of which was in September 2019, when he was arrested from inside the Dokki Police Station, While executing the complementary police supervision sentence after his release and the expiration of his 5-year prison sentence in the case known in the media as “the Shura Council Protesters Case.”

Alaa has been detained since then, when he was accused in more than one case. The Emergency Supreme State Security Court sentenced him to 5 years in prison, a superior court devoid of all foundations of justice. Above all, its verdict is final, and there is no possibility of appeal. The regime was not satisfied with arresting Alaa. Still, it was keen to abuse him in his prison cell, where he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Scorpion Prison, the worst prison in Egypt and one of the worst prisons in the world. He was also beaten more than once inside his prison, and he was deprived of exercise, reading books, or obtaining clothes and sanitary ware, which led him to enter into a partial hunger strike (taking 100 calories of fluid per day) that been going on for more than 200 days.

On the other hand, Abdel Fattah’s family was making strenuous efforts to improve his conditions in prison or find a way out for him to release, so they took advantage of the fact that his struggling mother, Dr Laila Soueif, was born in Britain and holds British citizenship, to demand that he obtain British citizenship by dependence, so the UK government has the right to intervene and follow up his case as one of its citizens, which happened a few months ago. After British pressure and the growing local and international campaigns demanding the release of Abdel Fattah, he was transferred to a better prison. According to his mother, he began to obtain some of his rights, but so far, he has not been allowed to communicate with the British Consulate to negotiate the legal paths available to him.

The severe stubbornness with which the Egyptian authorities dealt with Alaa led him to believe that he would die in prison, according to his mother, which led to the escalation of his demands to end his hunger strike to become “the release of all detainees inside the National Security headquarters, and detainees who have passed the pre-trial detention period, Also, all those who were sentenced to prison terms in publishing cases, in addition to an amnesty for all those convicted in cases where there is no victim.” The Egyptian government still refuses to release him or implement any of his just demands.