Family: Egypt activist deteriorated since hunger strike


CAIRO (AP) — The family of imprisoned Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah said Thursday they were allowed into the prison and…

CAIRO (AP) — The family of imprisoned Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah said Thursday they were allowed into the prison and saw him on Thursday and that his condition has “deteriorated severely” following a dramatic hunger strike.

The news of Abdel-Fattah was posted in a tweet by his sister Mona Seif after a visit to the prison of Wadi el-Natroun, north of Cairo, by the activist’s mother, aunt and his other sister. It was their first time seeing him in nearly a month.

Abdel-Fattah is one of Egypt’s most prominent pro-democracy campaigners. He had intensified a hunger strike and halted all calories and water at the start earlier in November of the U.N. climate conference underway in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, to draw attention to his case and those of other political prisoners.

Concerns for his health intensified as the family was barred from seeing him. Last Thursday, prison authorities began an unspecified medical intervention on Abdel-Fattah — prompting thoughts that he was being force-fed.

Then earlier this week, Abdel-Fattah informed his family in handwritten notes that he first started drinking water again and then also ended the hunger strike.

Abdel-Fattah’s mother, Laila Soueif, received two short letters in her son’s handwriting, on Monday and Tuesday, through prison authorities. The first letter, confirming Abdel-Fattah had started drinking water again, was dated on Saturday, while the second letter, confirming he had ended his hunger strike was dated Monday.

“News from the visit are unsettling,” tweeted Andel-Fattah’s sister Mona, adding that her brother had “deteriorated severely in the past 2 weeks.”

She did not elaborate more on his health but said the family would share more information later in the day.

Abdel-Fattah, who turns 41 on Friday, has spent most of the past decade in prison because of his criticism of Egypt’s rulers. Last year, he was sentenced to five years for sharing a Facebook post about a prisoner who died in custody in 2019.

His hunger strike drew attention on Egypt’s heavy suppression of speech and political activity, during the Arab nation hosting of the U.N. climate summit. Since 2013, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has cracked down on dissidents and critics, jailing thousands, virtually banning protests and monitoring social media.

At the climate gathering, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz all raised the activist’s case in their talks with el-Sissi. Abdel-Fattah gained British citizenship earlier this year through his mother who was born in London.

Abdel-Fattah rose to fame during the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that swept through the Middle East, toppling Egypt’s long-time autocratic President Hosni Mubarak. He has been imprisoned several times, and has spent a total of nine years behind bars, becoming a symbol of Egypt’s sliding back to an even more autocratic rule under el-Sissi.

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