Alaa Abdel Fattah: UK lawmaker calls on government to help free hunger-striking British-Egyptian dissident

Alaa Abdel Fattah: UK lawmaker calls on government to help free hunger-striking British-Egyptian dissident
3 min read
07 May, 2022
UK Labour MP Zarah Sultana urged the government to secure the 'immediate release' of jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, whose health is deteriorating after a month-long hunger strike.
Alaa Abdel Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt's revolt in 2011 against Hosni Mubarak [AFP/Getty-archive]

A Labour Party lawmaker on Friday became the first parliamentarian to publicly call on the British government to help free imprisoned Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah since he became a UK citizen.

Zarah Sultana, who represents the Coventry South constituency in England, shared via Twitter a letter she sent to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss about the plight of the Egyptian-British prisoner, who has now been on hunger strike for more than a month.

"The UK government must urgently secure Alaa's release," Sultana said on Twitter.

Abdel Fattah secured British citizenship in April, through his British-born mother. His family said they applied for British citizenship to help end the "impossible ordeal" he is experiencing.

Despite his British citizenship, Egyptian authorities are blocking British consular access, Sultana said. She asked the British government to work to gain consular access to the imprisoned Abdel Fattah, and summon Cairo's ambassador to demand his "immediate release".

"From the imprisonment of Alaa to the murder of [Italian student] Giulio Regeni, Egypt's tyrannical regime not only rules over its own people with terror and vicious repression… but [also] targets foreign citizens, apparently with impunity," the letter read.

The Labour MP condemned the British government for its strong relationship with the Egyptian government – ties Truss described in September as "flourishing" – and asked that Britain put human rights and democracy first in its ties with Egypt's authorities.

Sultana asked Truss to "do your utmost" to free Abdel Fattah, "before it is too late".

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Abdel Fattah, a veteran pro-democracy activist, has been jailed by the Egyptian authorities on multiple occasions.

His latest detention, at the maximum-security Tora prison in the Cairo Governorate, began in September 2019.

Abdel Fattah was handed a five-year jail term in December for "broadcasting false news". He had already been detained for two years before his conviction, a length of pre-trial detention illegal under Egyptian law.

Having been on hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention since the beginning of April, Abdel Fattah has said goodbye to his loved ones as his health continues to deteriorate.

In response to a request for comment from The New Arab, a spokesperson for the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: "We are supporting the family of a British national detained in Egypt and are urgently seeking consular access.

"We are in contact with the Egyptian authorities."

In her letter, Sultana also called on the government to insist Egypt stop "harassment and intimidation" of Egyptians in Britain and desist from "threatening British and British-Egyptian citizens with arrest on arrival in Egypt".