Jailed British-Egyptian activist Abdel Fattah ends hunger strike

CAIRO, 16 Nov 2022:

Pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah has ended a hunger strike that he launched in April in the Egyptian prison where he has been jailed for three years, his family reported yesterday.

“We just got this letter. Alaa has broken his hunger strike. I don’t know what’s happening inside, but our family visit is scheduled for Thursday and he’s saying to bring a cake to celebrate his birthday,” the activist’s sister Sanaa Seif tweeted.

Abdel Fattah, who is a dual Egyptian and British national, had started a partial hunger strike in April consuming only 100 calories a day. But in early November, he started a zero-calorie hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

International attention over his case peaked last week when his family denied that there were reports the jailed dissident had been placed under “medical intervention” with the “knowledge of judicial entities,” his sister said at that time.

Abdel Fattah’s mother Laila Seif received a handwritten letter yesterday informing her he was fine, that he had ended his hunger strike and was looking forward to celebrating his birthday with a cake.

“I will explain everything to you on Thursday,” the letter, which Seif shared on social media, continued.

Abdel Fattah yesterday ended a thirst strike which he had launched as world leaders converged at the UN COP27 climate summit in the Egyptian city of Sharm el Sheikh.

His sister Sanaa confirmed the activist was alive and well on Twitter, confirming that note from prison to Alaa’s mother was “definitely his handwriting.”

“Proof of life, at last. Why did they hold this back from us for 2 days?!” Seif asked.

Abdel Fattah’s family has had no communication with him since he launched his thirst strike on Nov 6.

The software developer had already spent over 220 days on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment, which has been described as “unfair” by various rights groups.

The activist’s lawyer Khaled Ali said on Facebook the letter added that his client was well and under medical supervision.

The lawyer said he had returned to the Wadi el-Natrun prison on Monday in an attempt to see Abdel Fattah in person after prison authorities twice denied him visits last week.

His case caught the attention of the leaders of several nations including the UK, France and Germany – who addressed the issue directly with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Abdel Fattah has spent much of the time since al-Sisi rose to power in 2013 behind bars, having served a five-year sentence for organising a protest and after being handed another five-year prison sentence in 2021 for “spreading false news”.