Jailed British-Egyptian activist escalates hunger strike by refusing water as COP27 gets underway - CNBC

Mona Seif, sister of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, leads a candlelight vigil outside Downing Street on November 06, 2022 in London, England.

Rob Pinney | Getty Images News | Getty Images

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt รข€" Jailed British-Egyptian citizen Alaa Abdel-Fattah stepped up his hunger strike by refusing water, ratcheting up fears for the life of one of the country's leading rights activists just as world leaders arrive in Egypt for the start of the COP27 climate summit.

Amnesty International chief Agnes Callamard said Sunday that authorities had less than three days to save Abdel-Fattah's life, warning that failure to intervene would overshadow the U.N.'s flagship climate conference.

It comes amid growing fears over the deteriorating health of Abdel-Fattah. The 40-year-old has stopped drinking water in a desperate attempt to pressure Egyptian authorities to allow him U.K. consular access.

The escalation of Abdel-Fattah's hunger strike has prompted grave concerns for the prominent human rights activist and writer, who had consumed just 100 calories a day for more than 200 days.

Egypt is hosting the COP27 climate summit in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh through to Nov. 18. The event has shone a global spotlight on Egypt's human rights record, with campaigners condemning President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's policy of "mass arbitrary detention to crush dissent."

Egypt's el-Sisi has long claimed that there are no political prisoners in the country.

"If they do not want to end up with a death they should have and could have prevented, they must act now," Callamard said at a news briefing.

If authorities were to fail to intervene in the next 72 hours "at the most," Callamard said Abdel-Fattah's death "will be holding on to COP27, it will be in every single discussion, every single discussion there will be Alaa there."

Abdel-Fattah rose to international prominence during Egypt's 2011 uprising and has been imprisoned for most of the past eight years.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Abdel-Fattah acquired British citizenship last year and has since been seeking the right to a consular visit by representatives of the British embassy. The Free Alaa campaign says this right has so far been refused.

"I believe that we should all concentrate on the task at hand and the priority as it relates to climate change," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNBC's Hadley Gamble at COP27 on Monday.

Asked whether Egypt recognizes Abdel-Fattah's British citizenship, Shoukry replied, "Egyptian law has a process and procedure to recognize the bestowing of dual nationality on what is originally Egyptian citizenship. And that process has not been as yet fulfilled."

"We have a very transparent and open conversation with all our partners," Shoukry said on a potential meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the conference. "We have nothing to hide, and we will continue to address all of the issues within different personal channels of communication that exist."

Watch CNBC's full interview with COP27 president and Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

watch now

Abdel-Fattah rose to international prominence during Egypt's 2011 uprising and has been imprisoned for most of the past eight years.

He was sentenced most recently in December last year to a further five years in prison for allegedly spreading false news via social media after sharing a post highlighting human rights abuses in Egyptian jails.

"I'm here to do my best to try and shed light on my brother's case and to save him," Sanaa Seif, Alaa Abdel-Fattah's sister, said on arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh in the early hours of Monday, according to Reuters.

"I'm really worried. I'm here to put pressure on all leaders coming, especially [U.K.] Prime Minister Rishi Sunak," Seif said. She had until recently been leading a sit-in outside the British Foreign Office in London.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a letter to Seif that he was "very concerned" about the situation, adding that the government was "totally committed" to swiftly resolving his case.

"Ministers and officials continue to press for urgent consular access to Alaa as well as calling for his release at the highest levels of the Egyptian government," Sunak said.

Tasneem Essop, head of the Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 civil society groups, appealed to Sunak's government to do all they can to help free Abdel-Fattah.

"Sunak, the U.K. PM, he's coming to Egypt. And there has been a massive global campaign to call on the U.K. government to help free Alaa Abdel-Fattah," Essop said on Monday at COP27.

"They should come here and do that. He should come here in addition to making statements on climate," she added. "Come and help free Alaa."

0/Post a Comment/Comments