Egypt: Alaa Abdel Fattah gains UK citizenship on 10th. Day of Hunger Strike in Sisi’s prisons

The family of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah announced on Monday, 11 April, 2022, that he has gained British citizenship, part of an effort to help him “find some way out of this impossible ordeal.”

Also, The Guardian reported that “Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, a key figure in the country’s 2011 revolution, has obtained British citizenship from inside prison, where he is serving a three-year sentence, and his family has appealed to UK authorities to seek consular access to visit him in jail”

As a British citizen, Abdel Fattah has requested he be allowed to communicate with the family’s lawyers in the UK “so that they can take all possible legal measures regarding not only the violations he has been subjected to, but all the crimes against humanity he has witnessed during his imprisonment”, according to a statement released by Abd El Fattah’s sisters.

Abdel Fattah has spent most of the last decade behind bars as punishment for his pro-democracy activism. He was most recently convicted in a bogus emergency court trial in December and sentenced to five years in prison, with his 27 months spent in pretrial detention not counting toward his sentence.

On December 20, the Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court delivered an unappealable verdict in the case of Alaa Abdel Fattah, human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim, sentencing Abdel Fattah to five years in prison and El-Baqer and Oxygen to four years each on bogus charges of spreading “fake news” after they criticized the regime’s human rights violations.

He has been on a hunger strike for 10 days to demand that a judge investigate his complaints into the violations he and other detainees have suffered in Tora prison complex. 

According to his family, Abdel Fattah has spent the past two and a half years in a cell “without sunlight, with no books, no exercise,” and only a single 20-minute family visit allowed each month. He has also been continually subjected to physical and psychological assaults by Ahmed Fekry, “a prison officer bent on punishing him.”

Abdel Fattah’s mother was born in London, and he and his two sisters began to explore the idea of pursuing British citizenship in 2019, when it “became clear that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s prisons would refuse to release our family.” Now, armed with a British passport, Abdel Fattah has added the demands that British consular authorities be allowed to visit him in prison and that he be permitted to communicate with his lawyers in the UK. 

In 2014, al-Sisiissued a decreeallowing the deportation of foreign prisoners. Some Egyptian political prisoners who hold foreign citizenship, such as Ramy Shaath, have been released in recent years after agreeing to leave Egypt and give up their Egyptian citizenship.

Following is the Statement by Alaa Abdel Fattah’s Family: On 10th. Day of Full Hunger Strike:

When I visited Alaa on April 4, in Tora Maximum Security 2, he told me he had started a hunger strike two days earlier, on the first day of Ramadan.

This is not the first time Alaa has gone on hunger strike, but this time things feel different.

For two and a half years he has been kept in a cell without sunlight, with no books, no exercise. His visitations have been cut to one family member, for twenty minutes a month, through glass, with not a moment of privacy or contact. For two and a half years he has been subjected to a personal vendetta, living under the complete control of a prison officer bent on punishing him.

National Security officer, #Ahmed_Fekry, physically assaulted Alaa the moment he set foot in his prison – stripping him, blindfolding him, beating and threatening him. Since that moment, Fekry has been in complete control of Alaa’s life. He is locked in a black hole beyond the realm of law or time. 

In Alaa’s most recent trial, he was not allowed to see a copy of the case file and was sentenced without either the prosecution or the defense having made their cases. But we know that he was accused of retweeting a post about the circumstances surrounding the death of a prisoner. That prisoner was under the supervision of Ahmed Fekry.

For two and a half years now Alaa has been under Fekry’s complete control. Lawyer’s visits – when they are allowed – take place with Fekry listening. Even visits by Alaa’s son took place under his torturer’s  supervision – driving Alaa to suspend his own son’s visits.

Many prisoners suffer even worse conditions than Alaa’s – and he has been witness to serious crimes committed against them. He, and we on his behalf, have filed dozens of complaints with the Public Prosecutor about the range of violations being constantly perpetrated inside prison. They have gone entirely ignored.

Here is one, particularly, horrific example:

In March 2021, Alaa  told the courts he heard prisoners being tortured with electricity in a cell close to him. He submitted an official complaint to the judiciary and we, in turn, submitted a complaint to the Public Prosecutor [10579 on March 9th. 2021]. Authorities came and questioned Alaa in his cell, then showed his testimony to the officer and prison guard he accused of torture. After the investigating authorities left, Ahmed Fekry entered the ward with a phalanx of guards, to the cell where Alaa previously heard the electric shock being used, forcing Alaa to listen as an inmate screamed repeatedly “I never asked you to submit a complaint on my behalf.”

Alaa was sentenced to five years in December. The two years he served in pre-trial detention before that do not count towards it. The sentence cannot be appealed. This is why he has been driven to hunger strike. A full, open, hunger strike.

He has two demands:

The first is as an Egyptian citizen: to assign a judge to investigate the complaints he has already submitted, which document the violations he has been subjected to since the day he was abducted on September 29, 2019.

The second is as a British citizen: for the British Consulate to be allowed to visit him in prison.

And to enable him to communicate with our lawyers in the U.K so that they can take all possible legal measures regarding not only the violations he has been subjected to, but all the crimes against humanity he has witnessed during his imprisonment.

These demands have been submitted in an official report to the Public Prosecutor [16270, ِ April 5th. 2022]

Alaa recently gained British citizenship through our mother, Laila Soueif, who was born in London in May 1956 while her mother, Fatma Moussa, was there doing her PhD (The Influence of the Oriental Tale on English Romanticism). All three of us – Alaa, Mona and Sanaa – all now hold British citizenship in addition to our Egyptian.

We did not explore our right to British citizenship until, in 2019, it became clear that Sisi’s prisons would refuse to release our family and we had to find some way out of this impossible ordeal. Through lawyers in England, we enquired about our rights under British law and began a process that, now three years later, has resulted in Alaa having a British passport issued.

And so, Alaa is asking for urgent action from both Egypt and Britain’s judicial institutions; and we join him in his call.

Mona and Sanaa

Sisters of Alaa Abdel Fattah

Detained in Sisi’s prisons since 2013

April 11th. 2022