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Egypt hunger-striker’s family requests presidential pardon as health concerns mount

British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah escalates months-long hunger strike, stops drinking water

Egypt's leading pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah speaks during a conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, September 22, 2014.  (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Egypt's leading pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah speaks during a conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, September 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

CAIRO, Egypt — The family of jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah announced Friday they have requested a presidential pardon for him as concern for his health mounts after a months-long hunger strike.

“Attached is the text of the pardon request that I submitted today, confirming… my readiness to take all available legal methods that guarantee a solution to my brother’s crisis,” his sister Mona Seif wrote on Twitter.

It comes after the activist escalated a months-long hunger strike and stopped drinking water as the COP27 climate summit got underway in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last Sunday.

Egypt has granted presidential pardons to a total of 766 political prisoners since the reactivation of a pardon policy in April this year, according to data compiled by Amnesty International.

But over the same period, close to double that number have been jailed for their activism, Amnesty says.

On Thursday, the Egyptian prosecutor said the jailed dissident’s “vital signs… are normal,” and that he “is in good health and does not need to be transferred to hospital,” amid growing concerns over his health.

His sister responded at the time calling the prosecutor’s remarks a “lie”, adding that the authorities were forcibly intervening to “deny” his hunger strike “so that he won’t die”.

Abdel Fattah’s mother Laila Soueif, who has tried to access the prison where he is being held, was informed that “medical intervention was taken… with the knowledge of judicial entities”, Seif wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

US President Joe Biden made a lightning visit to Egypt Friday for the COP27 UN climate talks and raised human rights issues in a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The White House had earlier expressed “deep concern” about Abdel Fattah, after the activist’s lawyer said he had been refused access to him, despite being authorized for such a visit by the interior ministry.

Abdel Fattah, a key figure in the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, is serving a five-year prison sentence for “spreading false news” by sharing a Facebook post about police brutality.

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