Alaa Abdel Fattah's mother says his condition in Egyptian jail unknown
The mother of Egyptian-British hunger striker Alaa Abdel Fattah says she received no letter when she visited the prison where he is being held and has no way to verify his condition, two days after he was due to stop drinking water.
Laila Soueif said she waited outside Wadi al-Natrun prison on the outskirts of Cairo for 10 hours for a weekly letter from her son, usually delivered on Monday. No letter came out, the family said.
"They alleged that he is refusing to release a letter, that is not unwell but he just won't send out a letter," Soueif said in a video message late on Monday. "I don't have any physical proof that Alaa is alive and conscious."
Abd el-Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt's 2011 popular uprising but has been detained for most of the time since then. Sentenced most recently in December 2021 to five years on charges of spreading false news, he has been on hunger strike for 220 days against his detention and prison conditions.
He escalated his protest this week, as world leaders gathered in Egypt at the start of the COP27 climate summit, an annual United Nations gathering.
Soueif said she would return to the prison on Tuesday to resume her vigil. "I will come back here tomorrow, but I hope that during this time, any entity is able to confirm that Alaa is alive and conscious."
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he had raised Abd el-Fattah's case with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and that he hoped to see the issue resolved as soon as possible.
Asked about the case, Egyptian Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told CNBC prison authorities would provide Abd el-Fattah with healthcare.
"This is a matter of personal choice, and again it is dealt with within the penal system, within the rules and regulations that govern it," he said.
Egyptian officials have not responded to Reuters phone calls for comment on Abd el-Fattah. They said previously that he was receiving meals.
Abd el-Fattah's family said he was only consuming minimal calories and some fibre to sustain himself earlier in the year, and that he is very frail.
The family say Egyptian officials have declined to recognise his British citizenship, which the family announced earlier this year he had obtained through his mother, who was born in London.
Shoukry said the Egyptian legal procedure for dual citizenship "has not as yet been fulfilled" in Abd el-Fattah's case.
Some rights campaigners have criticised the decision for Egypt to host COP27, citing Cairo's long crackdown on political dissent in which rights groups say tens of thousands have been detained. They have also raised concern over access and space for protests at the United Nations climate talks.
Sisi has said security measures were needed to stabilise Egypt after the 2011 uprising.