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Cop27: Alaa Abd el-Fattah’s sister arrives in Egypt for summit

Sanaa Seif urges UK PM Rishi Sunak to press for her brother's release, as world leaders gather in Sharm el-Sheikh
Sanaa Seif, sister of jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah, arrives in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh for the Cop27 UN climate change conference on 7 November 2022 (Reuters)

Sanaa Seif, the sister of jailed British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, has arrived in Egypt’s resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to campaign for her brother’s release at the Cop27 United Nations climate change conference. 

Cop27 is taking place in the Red Sea resort town from 6-18 November, amid tight restrictions on peaceful assembly and free speech. 

"I'm here to do my best to try and shed light on my brother's case and to save him," Seif told Reuters after arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh in the early hours of Monday.

"I'm really worried. I'm here to put pressure on all leaders coming, especially Prime Minister Rishi Sunak."

The UK prime minister, who is at the conference, wrote to Seif on Saturday stressing that Abd el-Fattah’s case was “a priority for the British government”. 

Abd el-Fattah was an icon of the 2011 Egyptian revolution and has spent eight of the past 10 years in jail on various charges. 

He was rearrested in September 2019, and again in December 2021, when he was sentenced to five years in prison by an emergency state security court on charges of spreading "false news" in a trial widely condemned by human rights defenders. The evidence used against him was a retweet.

On Sunday, he escalated the partial hunger strike he began on 2 April, stating that he would now refuse any food or drink. 

'Embarrasing reminder'

Seif told Middle East Eye last week that she was attending Cop27 as an “embarrassing reminder” over her brother’s imprisonment. 

"I'm doing this because I want to keep the pressure up and I want to be a physical reminder that exists and that is an embarrassment for everyone complicit in the crimes against my brother," she said during a press conference on Thursday. 

The family revealed that they had "finally" spoken to UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly during a call on Monday evening, in addition to meeting with Middle East Minister Lord Ahmad on Tuesday.

Last week, 13 winners of the Nobel Prize for literature wrote to world leaders urging them to discuss the plight of political detainees in Egypt ahead of the climate summit. 

The intervention came just days after Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg announced she would not be attending Cop27 due to human rights abuses in the host country.

At least 60,000 political prisoners are estimated to have been jailed since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, in 2013. 

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