Skip to main content

Alaa Abd el-Fattah: UN demands release of Egyptian democracy activist

Jailed activist announced intention to refuse water, in addition to food, leading to concerns from rights monitors
Protesters gather on November 7, 2022 near the British embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut to demand the release of jailed British-Egyptian political dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah (AFP)
Protesters gather near the British embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, to demand the release of jailed British-Egyptian political dissident Alaa Abd el-Fattah (AFP)

The UN has demanded the Egyptian government release imprisoned activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who is currently refusing both food and water while incarcerated.

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.

UN rights chief Volker Turk on Tuesday said Abd el-Fattah needed to be released, warning his life was "in great danger".

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


"I urge the Egyptian government to immediately release Abd el-Fattah from prison and provide him with the necessary medical treatment," Turk said in a statement.

"His dry hunger strike puts his life at acute risk."

Later on Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also chimed in with calls for the activist's release.

"There must be a decision - his release must be possible, so that this hunger strike does not end in death," he said, adding the situation was "very depressing" and "we should be afraid that this could lead to dreadful consequences."

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. 

Climate conference

The call comes shortly after the beginning of the Cop27 climate conference, taking place in Egypt's resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh from 6-18 November, amid tight restrictions on peaceful assembly and free speech. 

Abd el-Fattah announced his intention to escalate the partial hunger strike he began on 2 April to coincide with the beginning of the conference.

He has refused food altogether since Tuesday, and on Sunday launched a "water strike", his sister Sanaa Seif said in a statement.

His sister Mona Seif said that this was the family's "final chapter", and that "if Alaa is not freed by Cop27, he is going to die in prison".

On Thursday, Sanaa announced that she would be attending Cop27 as an "embarrassing reminder" to world leaders 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," Sanaa told Middle East Eye during a press conference in London. 

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.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.