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Egypt: Alaa Abdel Fattah to refuse any food or drink in jail ahead of Cop27

The Egyptian-British activist set to escalate his hunger strike to pressure authorities to release him from prison
Mona Seif (L) and Sanaa Seif (R), sisters of Alaa Abdel Fattah, protest outside the British foreign office in London on 19 October 2022 (MEE/Khaled Shalaby)
Mona Seif (L) and Sanaa Seif (R), sisters of Alaa Abdel Fattah, protest outside the British foreign office in London on 19 October 2022 (MEE/Khaled Shalaby)

Jailed Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah has announced he will escalate his hunger strike and refuse any food or drink ahead of Egypt's hosting of the UN climate conference, Cop27, later this week.

"After five days, on Sunday, 6 November, I shall drink my last glass of water. What will follow is unknown," he said in a letter shared on social media by his relatives.

Abdel Fattah, an Egyptian-British citizen, launched a partial hunger strike on 2 April, consuming no more than 100 calories daily, to pressure authorities to release him from prison and allow him to travel to Britain. 

He was arrested in September 2019, and in December 2021, 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. However, the evidence used against him was a retweet.

Abdel Fattah's sombre letter to his mother said that he decided to escalate his hunger strike "at a time I see as fitting for my struggle for my freedom, and the freedom of prisoners of a conflict they've no part in, or trying to exit from; for the victims of a regime that's unable to handle its crises except with oppression, unable to reproduce itself except through incarceration," he said.

Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist and Abdel Fattah's aunt, tweeted on Tuesday saying: "It's mid-day in Cairo. Two hours ago Alaa finished his last hot drink, took his last spoonful of honey."

Soueif added that "In the August heat, hunger had made him shiver. Now winter has arrived. And the fans are on in his cell all day. He will live like this for five days, for freedom."

Cop27 boycott

Egypt's dire human rights record had pushed the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg to announce her boycott of Cop27 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh next week.

"I'm not going to Cop27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited," she said on Sunday during a launch event for her new book at London's Southbank Centre.

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"It's important to leave space for those who need to be there. It will be difficult for activists to make their voices heard," she added.

Thunberg also joined more than 200 organisations and individuals in October calling for Egyptian authorities to release journalists and political prisoners ahead of the conference. 

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

Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested at least 65 people who called for a peaceful demonstration on 11 November during the Cop27 conference, which ends on 18 November.

The Egyptian Front for Human Rights said in a statement on Monday that those arrested were accused of belonging to a "terror group" after publishing videos on social media calling for protest against the increased cost of living in Egypt.

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