Jailed Egyptian democracy activist on hunger strike is hospitalized, family says

Supporters of Egyptian democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah gather
Sanaa Seif, center left, sister of jailed Egyptian democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, walks past a demonstration in support of political prisoners.
(Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press)

Egyptian prison authorities have intervened medically in the case of jailed democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who escalated a hunger strike demanding his release this week at the same time that Egypt is hosting a global climate summit, his mother said.

The nature of the intervention was not known, but the family has expressed fears that prison officials would force-feed Abdel Fattah, which they said would amount to torture. Abdel Fattah said in an earlier letter that he was prepared to die in prison if he was not freed.

His mother, Leila Soueif, said she spoke to prison authorities by phone and asked if her son was undergoing any medical procedure and they said he was. She asked “if it was by force, and they said no” and told her, “Alaa is good,” she told the Associated Press.


Soueif called for him to be transferred to a civilian hospital rather than a prison facility. “I need proof for this. I don’t trust them,” she said. Soueif has been waiting outside the prison every day this week, asking for proof of life for her son.

Abdel Fattah, who has been in prison for most of the last decade, is serving a five-year sentence on charges of disseminating false news for retweeting a report in 2019 that another prisoner died in custody.

He had been on a partial hunger strike of 100 calories a day for the last six months. He stopped all calorie intake and began refusing water Sunday, the first day of the United Nations climate summit held at the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

President Biden is coming to global climate talks in Egypt with a message that historic American measures to fight climate change won’t be reversed.

Nov. 9, 2022

Egypt’s hosting of the event has drawn intensified international attention to heavy suppression of speech and political activity. Since 2013, President Abdel Fattah Sisi’s government has cracked down on dissidents and critics.

World leaders and activists have repeatedly called for Egyptian authorities to release Abdel Fattah.

Abdel Fattah rose to fame during the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that swept through the Middle East, which toppled Egypt’s longtime president, Hosni Mubarak. His imprisonment since 2011 has become a symbol of Egypt’s sliding back to autocratic rule under Sisi.