#FreeAlaa: Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah on hunger strike protesting his continued illegal detention

Press release
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We, the undersigned civil society organizations, lawyers, journalists, and activists, urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Alaa Abdel Fattah, our courageous friend, human rights activist, and blogger.

Alaa has been on a hunger strike for over two weeks in protest to his continued illegal detention, prohibition of communication with his family, and the inhumane conditions in Tora prison, which has been described by his family as the “the worst of all of his previous detentions dating back to 2006.”

He was arrested on September 27th, 2019, beaten, threatened, and robbed in prison, only six months after serving a five-year prison sentence for organizing a protest in 2013. Alaa was snatched from outside the police station where he had been forced to sleep every night. His arrest took place in the context of a full-scale crackdown on those involved in the September 20th anti-Sisi protest, where more than 4,000 people have since been detained, including prominent activists, journalists, university professors, and lawyers.

While he has not been convicted, he has been kept in detention without a trial and charged with “belonging to an illegal organization” and “spreading false news,” a blanket, vague, and broad charge that the Egyptian authorities can routinely leverage to persecute activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens in Egypt.

And yet, Alaa is standing against injustice and is fighting for his basic rights, together with those of more than 60,000 political prisoners held in Egyptian prisons in terrible and decaying conditions without any basic rights, sufficient food, or access to health care. This is taking place during this crisis when overcrowded prison cells have become infestation hubs for the COVID-19.

Instead of taking immediate measures to protect the prison population and release pretrial detainees and political prisoners in response to the global COVID-19 health pandemic, Egyptian authorities moved to further isolate and block prisoners from the outside world. They canceled family and lawyer visitations and communication and suspended legal proceedings.

Alaa’s family has been unable to visit or communicate with him despite consistent requests and endless hours of waiting outside of the Tora maximum-security prison 2 where Alaa has been confined to his cell in remand detention with no access to fresh air, exercise, books, or newspapers. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the Egyptian prison authorities are still refusing to pass on letters, clothes, and other necessary medical and hygienic materials from his family.

On April 28 2020, his family was finally permitted to view the official report documenting Alaa’s hunger strike to the prosecutor including information on his health condition. Alaa officially started a full hunger strike on April 12th 2020, protesting the illegal continuation of his detention. In a statement posted by his sister, Mona Seif, Alaa had stated in the report that “ the current situation requires my presence with my family, my elderly mother and my son, during these difficult circumstances of the Corona pandemic, rather than of being held ‘safe’ in prison based on inadequate and fabricated investigations, in a case that everyone knows will not be referred to courts at all.

I demand regular communication with my family so I can check on them, and with my lawyers to consult with them. I also demand access to official information regarding Corona virus from national newspapers and radio.

In the words of the writer Ahdaf Soueif, his aunt, Alaa has always fought injustice with his words and body, and “ by going on hunger strike now he draws attention to the plight of tens of thousands in Egypt’s prisons.

Alaa decided, as always, not to be silent. We, now, must do our part.

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  • Co-signatories

    DAAM: Democratic Transition & Human Rights Support
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    Association Pour la promotion du droit à la différence (ADD)
    Association Tunisienne De Prévention Positive
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Centre de Tunis pour la Liberté de la Presse
    Citizenship, Development, Cultures, and Immigration Association
    Damj: The Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality
    Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
    Egyptian Human Rights Forum
    Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux
    Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)
    Iraqi Network for Social Media – INSM
    L’Association Francophone pour les Droits de l’Homme
    MENA Rights Group
    Observatoire National pour la Défense du Caractère Civil de l’Etat
    Pen Iraq
    Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT)
    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – ANHRI
    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    The Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia
    The Tunisian Association for the Defense of Individual Freedoms
    Tunis Center for Press Freedom
    Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD)
    Tunisian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
    Tunisian Women Association for Research on Development
    Union Tunisienne des Médias Associatifs (UTMA)
    Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defender
    Association Tunisienne de Défense des Libertés Individuelles
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)
    L’association Perspectives El 3amel Ettounsi
    L’initiative Mawjoudin pour l’égalité
    Tunisian Human Rights League
    Organization 10_23 to support the democratic transition in Tunisia
    Ahmed Ragab, Journalist
    Gamal Eid, ANHRI
    Hassan Abbas (Co-Editor In Chief at Raseef22)
    Mohamed Omran (Executive Director, DAAM center)
    Ma’an Abu Taleb (Founding Editor Ma3azef.com)
    Mounir Charfi, Observatoire National pour la Défense du Caractère Civil de l’Etat
    Rasha Hilwi (Co-Editor In Chief at Raseef22)

  • Member organisations - Egypt
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