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Cop27: Egyptian journalists launch hunger strike in solidarity with political prisoners

Eman Ouf, Mona Selim and Racha Azab raise plight of detainees, as world leaders arrive in Egypt for climate summit
Eman Ouf, Mona Selim and Racha Azab hold signs at the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo on 7 November 2022 (Facebook)
Eman Ouf, Mona Selim and Racha Azab hold signs at the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo on 7 November 2022 (Facebook)

Three Egyptian journalists launched a hunger strike on Monday in solidarity with jailed British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah and thousands of other political prisoners, as world leaders arrived in Egypt for the Cop27 United Nations climate change conference. 

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

Eman Ouf, Mona Selim and Racha Azab, announced on Facebook that they had begun a hunger strike, in addition to a sit-in inside the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo. 

“We demand the immediate release of Alaa Abd el-Fattah [and] the release of detained journalists, whether they are members of the press union or not,” they wrote on Monday. 

The journalists also called for the “opening of the public sphere in Egypt” and an end to the “ongoing security crackdown against those expressing their opinions”. 

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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.

Alaa's sister arrives in Egypt

Abd el-Fattah's sister Sanaa Seif arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday morning to campaign for her brother’s release to world leaders at the summit, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

"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 told Middle East Eye last week. 

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. 

In October 2019, human rights lawyer Amr Imam was arrested after launching a similar solidarity hunger strike with Abd el-Fattah. 

Imam was detained under pre-trial detention for over 1,000 days, before his eventual release in July this year. 

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