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Cop27: Hundreds march to free Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abdel Fattah

Climate activists and participants at the UN climate summit take part in a protest march behind Sanaa Seif to demand her brother's release
Sanaa Seif (c), the sister of imprisoned British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, greets supporters as she takes part in a protest staged by climate activists inside the Cop27 venue on 12 November 2022 (AFP)

Hundreds of human rights and climate activists chanted "free them all" and "no climate justice without human rights" in a protest at the UN climate summit (Cop27) on Saturday, calling for the release of Egyptian-British political prisoner Alaa Abdel Fattah.

Abdel Fattah's sister, Sanaa Seif, led a protest march in the Blue Zone with posters calling for freeing all political prisoners in Egypt as the country hosts this year's climate summit in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh through 18 November.

Political prisoners in Egypt are estimated to be 65,000, according to Egyptian rights groups.

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Seif has taken part in the conference to raise awareness on the ordeal of her detained brother, now on a hunger strike and refusing water to put pressure on authorities to release him.

Seif has been attacked by pro-government delegates who questioned the fact that Abdel Fattah is a political prisoner.

The secretary-general of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard, took part in the protest.

"We march inside the UN space because we cannot march freely on the streets of Egypt," she wrote on Twitter. "We march because we refuse to greenwash the Egyptian government's human rights violations."

Request for presidential pardon

On Friday, Abdel Fattah's other sister Mona Seif announced that she has formally requested President Abdelfattah el-Sisi's clemency to end her brother's ordeal. The letter is the second to be addressed by the family to the presidency since June, but this time Seif says it's a "personal plea" to President Sisi.

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She cited the case of another political prisoner imprisoned in connection with the same case who received a pardon last month. She also cited the health condition of his 11-year-old son and his need for his father's care.

The letter comes as Abdel Fattah escalated his hunger strike by refusing water with the beginning of Cop27.

The Public Prosecution on Thursday claimed that the detainee's health and "vital signs" were normal, but the family disputed the claims and requested "proof of life".

Abdel Fattah was a leading figure in the 2011 Egyptian revolution and has spent eight of the past 10 years in jail on various charges.

He was sentenced to five years in prison for "spreading false news" in December 2019, in a trial widely condemned by human rights defenders.

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