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Egypt: PEN International urges UK Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to push for Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s release

mercredi 5 octobre 2022 - 3:17pm

PEN International and its Centres active in the UK have today written to the British government calling for urgent action to secure the release of British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd El-Fattah. In letters sent to the Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, PEN International and its Centres have raised grave concerns over Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s health as he exceeded 180 days on hunger strike, however the UK government has failed to respond in substance to our pressing concerns.

PEN International has repeatedly called for urgent action to secure the immediate and unconditional release of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, and to ensure he has access to a lawyer and UK consular visits pending his release. PEN International has also urged the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to meet with Alaa Add El-Fattah’s family at the earliest opportunity.

Despite Liz Truss’ statement on 21 June 2022 that she was “working hard to secure Alaa Abd El Fattah’s release” and pledging to raise the case with the Egyptian authorities, no concrete progress appears to have since been made. Similarly, while former Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised Abd El-Fattah’s case directly with President Al-Sisi during a call on 25 August 2022, no meaningful improvements to his situation have been recorded under the previous government.

PEN International has repeatedly highlighted the increasing urgency of Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s case. Despite minimal improvements in his prison conditions since his transfer to a new prison in May 2022, Alaa Abd El-Fattah continues to be denied access to a lawyer and UK consular visits, and to be prevented from accessing medical necessities such as blood glucose and blood pressure monitors. On 24 August 2022, his family reported that the prison authorities had restricted Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s access to clean clothing and writing materials.

On 2 April 2022, Alaa Abd El-Fattah began a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary imprisonment and detention conditions. He has been on hunger strike for more than six months, and concerns for his health and well-being are mounting daily.

Background

Alaa Abd El-Fattah is a British-Egyptian citizen, an award-winning writer and software developer, and an Honorary Member of English PEN. He 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 on multiple occasions since his imprisonment. The Egyptian 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.

Since President Al-Sisi came to power in 2014, the Egyptian authorities have been expanding their online censorship, restricting essential freedoms, including freedom of assembly and association, and widening the use of counter-terrorism legislation and “fake news” charges against dissidents. Independent media and human rights websites are blocked in Egypt, while press freedom faces unprecedented challenges. Thousands of political detainees and prisoners of conscience, including numerous writers, remain arbitrarily imprisoned in dire conditions.

To ensure consistency as later on we say Al-Sisi