Alaa Abdel-Fattah's family to start sit-in outside UK Foreign Office

Alaa Abdel-Fattah's family to start sit-in outside UK Foreign Office
The sit-in starts on the 200th day of Alaa Abdel-Fattah's hunger strike, which has seen the imprisoned Egyptian British blogger and dissident consume just 100 calories a day.
4 min read
18 October, 2022
Alaa Abdel-Fattah (front) is an Egyptian-British dissident jailed in Egypt [Mohamed Hossam/Anadolu Agency/Getty-archive]

Alaa Abdel-Fattah's family will start a sit-in on Tuesday outside the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as the imprisoned Egyptian-British activist continues his hunger strike.

His sister Sanaa Seif will begin the protest in London on Tuesday evening and her MP, Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy, will visit at 5pm (1600 GMT).

The sit-in will mark the 200th day of Abdel-Fattah's hunger strike, which has seen the blogger and dissident, who is jailed in Egypt, consume just 100 calories a day.

"We are running out of time to save my brother's life," Seif said in a press release from the Free Alaa campaign.

"After months of being told that his case is being raised by officials I feel I have no options left other than to stay in front of the Foreign Office until the government takes serious action."

She said her brother is "doing everything he can" and has "pushed himself to the brink of death".

"We need an urgency and a determination from the British government to match his," added Seif, who like Abdel-Fattah is also an activist.

"Why are they not asserting their right to visit him? Why are they not demanding his release?

"The thought that my brother could be hospitalised before the British government takes serious action is unbearable – I can't let that happen."

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Seif said raising Abdel-Fattah's case "is clearly not enough", adding that her brother believes he will die in prison but "is not going to stop resisting with his body because he has nothing left".

British officials have been asking to visit Abdel-Fattah since December last year.

The UK's previous prime minister, Boris Johnson, raised his case twice and new premier Liz Truss while serving as foreign secretary told parliament she was "working very hard for his release".

Johnson "discussed resolving the consular case of Alaa Abdel Fattah" in a call with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in August, according to a British government press release at the time.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in May, while serving as Europe and North America minister, that the government was "urgently seeking consular access".

Abdel-Fattah is on hunger strike in protest against Egypt's refusal to grant the UK consular access to him.

While all of Abdel-Fattah's family members who are in London will participate in the sit-in, Seif is the one who will be there throughout the action's entire duration.

Seif is "demanding" Cleverly meet with the family to explain how the government is acting to secure Abdel-Fattah's freedom, according to a press release from Amnesty International.

The rights group said the sit-in will go on until Cleverly agrees to meet with Seif or until annual UN climate conference COP27 starts in Egypt. The event is scheduled to begin on 6 November.

It said Amnesty activists "will be attending the sit-in in solidarity with the family".

The Free Alaa campaign said the sit-in is "open ended".

Seif's MP Lammy said: "For months, Alaa's family have courageously fought his cause and it is a sign of their desperation and the chronic lack of progress that Sanaa has had to take this step.

"Alaa is a British citizen at death's door, languishing in prison for his political beliefs."

Lammy said that as the world looks to Egypt as the host of COP27, Abdel-Fattah's "grave situation" requires Cleverly's "urgent intervention".

"It is now imperative that he meet with Alaa's family and explain the steps he is taking to ensure Alaa's welfare and secure his release," Lammy added.

In response to a request for comment from The New Arab, an FCDO spokesperson said: "We are working hard to secure Alaa Abd El-Fattah's release and we continue to raise his case at the highest levels of the Egyptian Government.

"The Foreign Secretary most recently raised his case when he met Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry at the United Nations General Assembly last month."

Amnesty International views Abdel-Fattah as a prisoner of conscience.

He is serving a five-year sentence for "broadcasting false news" for sharing a Facebook post. His trial has been slammed as unjust by rights groups.

Computer programmer Abdel-Fattah is well known in Egypt as a giant of the country's 2011 revolution.

He has spent most of the last decade in jail.

Note: This story was updated at 5:36pm BST (1636 GMT) on 18 October 2022 after a comment was received from the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.