The most famous political prisoner in Egypt, Alaa Abdel Fattah, on hunger strike and who would have only a few days to live according to his supporters, was invited on Monday, November 7, to the discussions between leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh for the COP27 .
The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, thus had to respond successively to the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, about the British-Egyptian prisoner, an icon of the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Mr. Sunak had warned: Alaa Abdel Fattah is “a priority” for London Monday night, after meeting with the Egyptian president, said “I hope to see your case resolved as soon as possible” and promised to follow “pushing for progress”, according to a Downing Street spokesman. Mr Macron assured that Mr Sissi had “compromise” that the health of Alaa Abdel Fattah “be preserved”saying i hope that “The coming weeks and months will bring results”.
Mr. Sissi’s spokesman was content to report on these conversations without revealing their content. The head of Egyptian diplomacy, Sameh Choukri, president of COP27, assured the CNBC television channel that Alaa Abdel Fattah “he benefits from all the necessary care in prison”.
So many statements rejected by the relatives of Mr. Abdel Fattah, including his sister Sanaa Seif, present in Sharm El-Sheikh where he multiplies meetings with officials and interviews.
“Danger of Death”
Since April 2, Alaa Abdel Fattah, President Sissi’s pet mania, has had just a glass of tea and a tablespoon of honey a day in his Wadi Natrun prison, northwest of Cairo. Jailed several times since 2006, he completely stopped eating last Tuesday and drinking on Sunday, when COP27 opened in Sharm El-Sheikh, on the other side of the country.
On Monday, three Egyptian journalists announced that they would go on a hunger strike to demand his release. “We stop feeding now because Alaa Abdel Fattah is in mortal danger”Mona Selim explained, during a sit-in in Cairo with Eman Ouf and Racha Azab. they claim “the release of all prisoners of conscience”which are more than 60,000 in Egypt, according to NGOs.
Activists at COP27 are increasing the number of posts under the #FreeAlaa hashtag on social media, and several civil society speakers ended their speeches with the phrase You have not been defeated yet (“You haven’t been defeated yet”)the title of Alaa Abdel Fattah’s book. “There is not much time, at best seventy-two hours, to release Alaa Abdel Fattah. Either [les autorités égyptiennes] no, this death will be in all the discussions at COP27”Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard warned on Sunday.
In Beirut, a hundred people demonstrated Monday in front of the British embassy.
“It embodies the struggle of the Arab world against authoritarian regimes for twelve years”said journalist and activist Diana Moukalled, who showed a black and white portrait of the activist, accompanied by the keyword #FreeAlaa.
“Symbol of the arbitrariness of the regime”
Abdel Fattah, an engineer by training and blogger in favor of democracy, who for years was part of all the riots in Egypt, was sentenced at the end of 2021 to five years in prison for “Spread false information”.
He was a figurehead for the Kefaya political movement in the 2000s, following the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the monster marches against Islamist Mohamed Morsi two years later, and finally the demonstrations against Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi.
Since his prison, he has become “the symbol of the arbitrariness of the regime”says Agnes Callamard. According to Amnesty, since Egypt reactivated its Presidential Pardon Commission in April, 766 prisoners of conscience have been released. But another 1,540 entered prison, including Sherif Al-Roubi, a figure on the left, re-imprisoned after having benefited from this pardon, the NGO points out. “The president had announced an initiative that was to end imprisonment for crimes of opinion, but in reality it is quite the opposite”add m.me Selim.
Although its Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, Egypt has thirty journalists in prison. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Cairo has 168me out of 180 in the press freedom ranking in 2022.
Alaa Abdel Fattah’s first stay in prison dates back to 2006, under Hosni Mubarak. He returned there under Marshal Mohammed Tantaoui, the country’s de facto leader between 2011 and 2012, under Morsi and then under President Sissi from 2019. It was from his cell that he became a British citizen, in the midst of a hunger strike, his mother, Laila Soueif being born in London.