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27 May 2022
To Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom Elizabeth Truss, and the UK Foreign Office
British-Egyptian activist, blogger, and software developer Alaa Abdel Fattah – locked up in Egypt to silence his activism – faces the very real risk of death unless the United Kingdom Foreign Office immediately intervenes for his protection. At the time of writing, 27 May 2022, Alaa has entered day 56 of his hunger strike in protest of the horrific conditions of his imprisonment. His health is rapidly and significantly deteriorating.
On 12 May 2022, Alaa’s family reported that he was physically assaulted in prison. On 18 May 2022, 10 Members of Parliament and 17 Members of the House of Lords urged Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss and the UK government to act immediately to secure the activist’s release. On the same day, without informing his family, Alaa was transferred to the new prison complex in Wadi el-Natrun. On 19 May, 2022, Alaa’s sister, Mona Seif, confirmed that after the move, her brother “slept on a mattress for the first time in years.”
Alaa, now a British-Egyptian dual national, has yet to receive a UK consular visit, and is still asking for a judge to investigate the complaints he and his family have filed over his detention and to communicate with UK lawyers. We the undersigned organisations urgently call on the UK Foreign Office confirmed to secure Alaa’s release and safe transfer to the UK as well as the following:
Raise Alaa’s case through bi-lateral diplomatic channels with the Egyptian government and demand his immediate release;
Issue a public statement calling for the immediate release of Alaa; and
Ensure Alaa’s unhindered access to his lawyers in the UK.
Alaa has been jailed or charged under every government to take power in Egypt, spending over 3,000 days behind bars since 2011. He has been sentenced on charges that include "spreading false news”, “undermining national security", and "using social media to commit a publishing offence", “belonging to a terrorist group”, and has been arbitrarily detained for years.
In September 2021, authorities refused to release Alaa even after hitting the two-year legal limit for imprisonment without trial. Until this point, Alaa had not been informed why he was arrested. “The prosecution hasn’t questioned me about anything in my case for 23 months. And after 23 months, I find out that I am being accused of sharing a news item,” explained Alaa. In a trial marred by flagrant fair trial and due process violations, on 20 December 2021, Alaa was sentenced to five years in prison. Human rights lawyer Mohamed El Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim were sentenced alongside him to four years each. The two-plus years that Alaa spent in pre-trial detention did not count toward his current five-year jail sentence. This means that Alaa’s prison sentence will not end until 3 January 2027.
As a visionary, Alaa was among the first to recognise the power of technology in uniting and mobilising people against unjust and oppressive states. He was consistently working towards connecting technologists across the region. After the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, Alaa managed to gather Egyptian Twitter users in what was known then as “Tweet Nadwa” where they would discuss political issues and use Twitter as a tool to update those who were not able to attend in person. Alaa’s imprisonment is an attempt to silence a dissenting voice and discourage those inspired by him.
When UK authorities granted Alaa citizenship in April, they took on responsibility for upholding his rights to the same degree of any other citizen. The life and fate of Alaa is at stake, the UK Foreign Office must act now to save his life.
ALQST for Human Rights
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Committee for Justice (CFJ)
Damj for Justice and Equality
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux (FTDES)
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Masaar - Technology and Law Community
MENA Rights Group
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Red Line for Gulf
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
The Freedom Initiative (FI)
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)