Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP
Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
King Charles Street
29 July 2022
Dear Foreign Secretary,
PEN International and its PEN Centres active in the United Kingdom are writing to you to raise serious concerns regarding the ongoing arbitrary detention and imprisonment of British-Egyptian citizen and writer, Alaa Abd El-Fattah.
Alaa Abd El-Fattah is an award-winning blogger, writer, and software developer. He is also an Honorary Member of English PEN.
Alaa Abd El-Fattah is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Egypt following a grossly unfair trial before The Emergency State Security Court. The sentence, handed down in December 2021, has been widely condemned by leading international human rights organisations, including PEN International, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Human Rights Watch.
According to his family, Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention on multiple occasions since his imprisonment. Authorities have failed to adequately investigate Abd El-Fattah’s allegations of torture and ill-treatment, despite a series of complaints filed by him and his family since September 2019. For over two years, he was denied access to basic necessities, including a mattress, bed sheets, books, and newspapers. On 2 April 2022, Alaa Abd El-Fattah began a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary imprisonment and detention conditions. PEN has previously raised concerns over Abd El-Fattah’s physical and mental well-being and condemned the discriminatory and punitive treatment to which he is being subjected.
Despite our repeated calls on the Egyptian authorities to guarantee Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s right to a lawyer, family and UK consular access, authorities continue to deny him access to his lawyer and continue to block a visit from the UK consular.
We are gravely concerned about Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s health and well-being after more than 116 days on hunger strike and amid reports that his family are currently being denied access to see him since July 17.
As such, we are writing to request the British government urgently escalate this case and request you to:
- Call for immediate access for his family to see Alaa Abd El-Fattah;
- Use all means possible to urgently secure a consular visit;
- Provide access to any urgent medical treatment that may be required;
- Demand his immediate and unconditional release.
We also urge you to meet with Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s family at the earliest opportunity.
If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Romana Cacchioli, executive director, PEN International
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN
Ricky Monahan Brown, President, Scottish PEN
Menna Elfyn, President, Wales PEN Cymru
Lia Mills, Chair Irish PEN/ PEN na hÉireann