Amnesty urges Egypt to release and grant access to prominent activist – Times of India


CAIRO: A leading human rights watchdog on Thursday urged Egyptian authorities to grant access to the family of a prominent activist serving a five-year prison sentence, and reiterated calls for his immediate release.
Almost 10 days long Alaa Abdel FattahHis relatives had not heard from him and were told by prison officials that he refused to meet them, Amnesty International reported.
The London-based group also urged authorities to grant the UK urgent consular access to the 40-year-old computer programmer. Abdel-Fattah has been on a hunger strike for nearly 110 days to protest the conditions of his imprisonment, his family had previously said.
The hunger strike is still ongoing and nothing is known about Abdel-Fattah’s medical condition. He was sentenced to five years last December on charges of spreading false news, a charge often used to condemn opposition and pro-democracy activists in Egypt.
Earlier this year, Abdel-Fattah was granted British citizenship through his mother, Laila Soueif, a Cairo University math professor who was born in London, his family announced in April.
“He must be given immediate access to his family and be given a consular visit, as well as protect him from renewed torture and other ill-treatment,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Abdel-Fattah, an outspoken dissident, gained notoriety for the pro-democracy uprisings of 2011 that swept the Middle East and overthrew the longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Abdel-Fattah spent most of the past decade behind bars and his detention has become a symbol of Egypt’s return to autocratic rule.
On Thursday, Abdel-Fattah’s mother filed a petition with the Wadi El-Natrum prison authorities asking for an explanation as to why her son is allegedly not receiving a visit, his sister Mona Seif wrote on Twitter.
“How’s Alaa? Why don’t we visit him? What’s going on inside? and what are we waiting for to settle all this and see him and see for ourselves that he is well?’ said his sister.
She also said their mother traveled every day for five days to the prison, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Cairo, where the family lives, in hopes of getting something from him.
Abdel-Fattah was first convicted in 2014 after being convicted of participating in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. He was released in 2019 after serving a five-year term, but was arrested again later that year in a crackdown that followed rare anti-government protests.
The family said at the time they were seeking a British passport for Abdel-Fattah as a way out of his “impossible ordeal.” Since then, the family has been asking the authorities to grant him access to a consular visit.
Last year, Abdel-Fattah’s family and his Egyptian lawyers accused prison authorities at Cairo’s Torah Prison of torturing him and denying him basic legal rights. They also called on prosecutors to investigate the claims. In April, authorities transferred him from the infamous facility to the newly opened Wadi El-Natrun prison.
Egypt has released political prisoners as part of president since April Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s efforts to reach out to political opposition amid a dire economic crisis spawned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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