COP27: Nobel prize-winning writers call for release of Alaa Abdel Fattah after he refuses water

COP27: Nobel prize-winning writers call for release of Alaa Abdel Fattah after he refuses water
More than a dozen Nobel prize winners have called for the release of Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is currently refusing fluids, as well as thousands of other detained political prisoners in Egypt.
3 min read
02 November, 2022
Alaa Abdel Fattah began refusing fluids this week [Getty]

Nobel Prize-winning writers have called for the release of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt, including Alaa Abdel Fattah, ahead of the COP27 summit which will take place at Sharm El-Sheikh this week.

Fifteen Nobel Literature laureates penned a letter to world leaders calling on them to "devote part of your agenda to the many thousands of political prisoners held in Egypt’s prisons - most urgently, the Egyptian-British writer and philosopher, Alaa [Abdel Fattah]".

Thousands of other activists remain behind bars in Egypt held in horrifying conditions, where torture is said to be rife.

"We urge you to use the opportunity that is now in your hands to help those most vulnerable, not just to the rising seas, but those imprisoned and forgotten - specifically in the very country that has the privilege of hosting you," the laureates wrote.

"We ask you to use your plenary address to speak the names of the imprisoned, to call for their freedom, and to invite Egypt to turn a page and become a true partner in a different future: a future that respects human life and dignity."

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Alaa Abdel Fattah has been on hunger strike for six months and his family and supporters fear he could die imminently after the dissident writer refused water this week.

If he continues to refuse fluids he will be unlikely to survive the United Nations climate change conference, which Egypt is hosting between 6 and 18 November.

"We ask you, in your address, to bring the voices of the unjustly imprisoned into the room. Alaa [Abdel Fattah's] powerful voice for democracy is close to being extinguished," the writers added.

The letter was signed by Svetlana Alexievich, J. M. Coetzee, Annie Ernaux, Louise Glück, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kazuo Ishiguro, Elfriede Jelinek, Mario Vargas Llosa, Patrick Modiano, Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk, Roger Penrose, George Smith, Wole Soyinka and Olga Tokarczuk.

Alaa Abdel Fattah became one of Egypt's best-known pro-democracy activists during the 2011 revolution, which led to the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak.

He was detained in 2014 for allegedly assaulting a prisoner, in a case condemned by rights groups.

Abdel Fattah was released in 2019 but detained again months later following rare anti-government protests sparked by revelations that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had used public funds to build luxurious palaces for himself and his family.

In 2021 he was sentenced to five years in prison for "spreading fake news".

To protest his detention, Abdel Fattah has consumed only 100 calories a day for more than 200 days, in the form of a cup of tea, drop of milk, and spoonful of honey.

On Monday it was announced that he would no longer take any food or water, an effective death sentence for the 40-year-old writer.

Egyptian activist and Alaa's brother Mona Seif has held a protest in London calling on the UK government to secure the British-Egyptian writer's release.

"A British citizen will die on your watch in #Egypt's prisons just as you attend #Cop27 Are you planning to do anything about it, or continue to ignore us along with @JamesCleverly until our brother actually dies and you both offer empty condolences??" she tweeted on Wednesday, after news of a u-turn by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on attending the summit.

COP27 will be attended by many world leaders including Sunak, US President Joe Biden, and French President Emmanuel Macron.