Family: Egypt activist in prison starts ‘full hunger strike’

Oct 31, 2022, 5:34 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2022, 12:40 pm
Sanaa Seif, sister of Egypt's leading pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, stages a sit-in pro...

Sanaa Seif, sister of Egypt's leading pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, stages a sit-in protest outside the Foreign Office in London, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. The family of Egypt's most prominent imprisoned activist says he began a "full hunger strike" on Tuesday and plans to stop drinking water as of Sunday, the first day of the global climate summit, or COP27, that Egypt is hosting this month. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

LONDON (AP) — Egypt’s most prominent imprisoned activist went on a “full hunger strike”‘ on Tuesday and plans to stop drinking water on the first day of the global climate summit next week, his family said.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, an outspoken dissident and a U.K. citizen, rose to prominence with the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East and in Egypt toppled long-time President Hosni Mubarak. The 40-year old activist spent most of the past decade behind bars and his detention has become a symbol of Egypt’s return to autocratic rule.

As international spotlight focuses on Egypt ahead of the climate summit — or COP27 — in the Red Sea town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Abdel-Fattah’s family has been lobbying for his release. His sister, Sanaa Seif, has been staging a sit-in at the headquarters of Britain’s Foreign Ministry to push the U.K. to take action in his case.

Abdel-Fattah said in a letter to his family that he would start the “full hunger strike,” Seif said Tuesday.

For more than six months, Abdel-Fattah has been on a partial hunger strike, consuming only 100 calories a day and his family is concerned for his health. He wrote that on Nov. 6, the first day of the COP27, he will also give up water.

The family, which communicates with Abdel-Fattah through weekly letters and during rare visits, says it fears that if Abdel-Fattah is not released during the climate conference, he would die without water. The family’s next visit is Nov. 17.

An Egyptian government media officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Authorities have previously denied that Abdel-Fattah is on a hunger strike.

He was first sentenced in 2014 after being convicted of taking part in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. He was released in 2019 after serving a five-year term but was rearrested later that year in a crackdown that followed rare anti-government protests.

In December 2021, he was sentenced to another five-year term on charges of spreading false news. He also faces separate charges of misusing social media and joining a terrorist group — a reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities declared a terrorist organization in 2013.

In April, the family announced he had obtained British citizenship through his mother, Laila Soueif, a math professor at Cairo University who was born in London. The family said then that they sought a British passport for Abdel-Fattah as a way out of his “impossible ordeal.”

The family has criticized U.K. leaders for failing to push for a consular visit to Abdel-Fattah in the detention facility, especially as he is one of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt. Human Rights Watch estimates there are more than 60,000 behind bars.

“Alaa is a British citizen. He can be saved. There is a way out for him that is politically easy and face-saving for the Egyptian regime, only if the British government presses enough for his release,” Seif told The Associated Press, as she stood outside the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office headquarters.

The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, a U.S. ally with deep economic ties to European countries, has been relentlessly silencing dissenters and clamping down on independent organizations for years with arrests and restrictions. Many of the top activists involved in the 2011 uprising have fled the country or are now in prison, most under a draconian law passed in 2013 that effectively banned all street protests. In several instances, activists who carry dual citizenship have been deported and been made to give up their Egyptian citizenship.

Ahead of the global climate conference, Egypt’s human rights record has come under increasing scrutiny, though many activists fear that the attention to Abdel-Fattah’s case will wane as soon as the conference draws to a close and world leaders return home.

“Alaa is in danger, he decided that if they’re determined to keep him in prison forever, or until he dies, then at least he will decide the terms of the last battle and lead the charge,” his other sister, Mona Seif said in a video statement posted on social media. “I can’t ask him to stop what he’s doing,”

An influential blogger, Abdel-Fattah hails from a family of political activists, lawyers and writers. His late father was one of Egypt’s most tireless rights lawyers. His sisters — also British citizens — are also political activists, and his aunt is the award-winning novelist Ahdaf Soueif.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Renton man gets 10 years in prison in drug trafficking case

A federal judge has sentenced a Renton, Washington man to 10 years in prison for his role in a violent drug distribution ring, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
1 day ago
Jean Claude, 27, poses in front of his hairdressing salon in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sa...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Bright shops enliven Congo’s dark days

GOMA, Congo (AP) — Saturday morning in Goma, the lakeside capital of eastern Congo is as busy as any other day of the week, despite tensions caused by recent fighting between M23 rebels and government forces north of the city. Hundreds of taxi-motorcycles weave through the packed streets of the city on the Rwanda border, […]
1 day ago
FILE - Medical equipment and files lie damaged and looted by Eritrean soldiers at a hospital which ...
Associated Press

Kidnappings, looting cited in Ethiopia’s Tigray after truce

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Allies of Ethiopia’s federal military are looting property and carrying out mass detentions in Tigray, according to eyewitnesses and aid workers. The accounts raise fresh concern about alleged atrocities more than three weeks after the warring parties signed a truce that diplomats and others hoped would bring an end to suffering […]
1 day ago
British designer Elizabeth Emanuel stands beside a replica of an evening gown she designed for the ...
Associated Press

Exploring a memory: Designer recreates a dress for Diana

LONDON (AP) — This is a dress with a story, and Elizabeth Emanuel wants to tell it. Shocking pink with a plunging, ruffled neckline and body-hugging shape, the gown was designed by Emanuel for Lady Diana Spencer to wear at a Buckingham Palace party a few days before her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981. […]
1 day ago
FILE - People walk through the city center which lost electrical power after yesterday's Russian ro...
Associated Press

Hardship and hope: Winter, missile storms show Kyiv’s mettle

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The play finishes. The actors take their bows. Then they let loose with wartime patriotic zeal. “Glory to Ukraine!” they shout. “Glory to the heroes!” the audience yells back, leaping to its feet. The actors aren’t done. More yells follow, X-rated ones, cursing all things Russian and vowing that Ukraine will […]
1 day ago
Two anti-riot police officers wave the Iranian flags during a street celebration after Iran defeate...
Associated Press

US soccer displays Iran flag minus Islamic Republic emblem

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The U.S. men’s soccer team has begun displaying Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic as nationwide protests challenging Tehran’s theocratic government continue. The Twitter account of the U.S. men’s team on Sunday displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Family: Egypt activist in prison starts ‘full hunger strike’