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Three Egyptian journalists start hunger strike to free dissident

1. Cairo
Protesters gather on November 7, 2022 near the British embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut to demand the release of jailed British-Egyptian political dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah. (Photo: AFP)

CAIRO  — Three Egyptian journalists said Monday they had begun hunger strikes to demand authorities free Alaa Abdel Fattah, a jailed political dissident who has been refusing food and now water too.اضافة اعلان

British-Egyptian Abdel Fattah, 40, a major figure in the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak, stopped drinking water on Sunday to coincide with the opening of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

“We have stopped eating now because Alaa Abdel Fattah is in danger of dying,” journalist Mona Selim told AFP during a sit-in at the journalists’ union in Cairo.

She was speaking alongside Eman Ouf and Racha Azab, the two colleagues who have gone on hunger strike with her.

Selim said that the three are also demanding the “liberation of all prisoners of conscience” in Egypt.

They number more than 60,000 in Egypt, according to rights groups.

After a seven-month hunger strike during which he consumed only “100 calories a day”, Alaa Abdel Fattah has refused food altogether since last Tuesday.

On Sunday, he launched a “water strike” too, said his sister Sanaa Seif, who on Monday traveled to Sharm El-Sheikh where world leaders arrived for the COP27.

‘Not a lot of time’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said Abdel Fattah’s plight is “a priority”, and in a letter to the activist’s sister, strongly suggested that his case will be discussed at the summit.

Activists at COP27 have posted prolifically on Twitter under the hashtag #FreeAlaa, and several speakers have ended their speeches with the words “you have not yet been defeated” — the title of his book, prefaced by Canadian author Naomi Klein.

“There is not a lot of time — 72 hours at best,” Amnesty International chief Agnes Callamard said in Cairo on Sunday, referring to Alaa Abdel Fattah’s possible remaining lifespan.

She urged Egypt to release him and said that, “if they don’t, that death will be in every single discussion in this COP”.

Abdel Fattah has, since late last year, been serving a five-year sentence for “broadcasting false news”, having already spent much of the past decade behind bars.

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