Egyptian activist's family asks President El Sisi for clemency

Petition for Alaa Abdel Fattah's release was submitted after Egyptian leader's meeting with US President Joe Biden in Sharm El Sheikh

US President Joe Biden discussed the issue of human rights with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the sidelines of the Cop27 summit in Sharm El Sheikh, the White House said.  EPA
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The family of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a jailed British-Egyptian dissident on hunger strike, has formally petitioned Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi for a pardon.

They said his mother, two sisters and 11-year-old son badly needed Abdel Fattah in their lives.

“Last June, I submitted a request for presidential clemency for Alaa, my brother. Today I submitted another one to reaffirm my full dedication to any legal path that would help in resolving my brother’s issue and have him safely reunited with his son,” Mona Seif, a sister to Abdel Fattah, wrote on Twitter.

Alaa Abdel Fattah is currently serving a five-year jail term for spreading false news.

Ms Seif's petition was submitted late on Friday, shortly after Mr El Sisi held a meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

The White House said the two leaders discussed human rights, as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine on the global economy and food supplies, regional security challenges, Egypt's water rights and the longstanding defence partnership between Washington and Cairo.

Mr Biden, who was making his first visit to Egypt since taking office in 2020, later left for a series of summits in Asia, including the G20 meeting being hosted by Indonesia.

Abdel Fattah's case was raised earlier in the week during talks in Sharm El Sheikh between Mr El Sisi and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, who called for his release.

Alaa Abdel Fattah is currently serving a five-year jail term for spreading false news. AP

Their calls caused an uproar on pro-government media, with many accusing the western leaders of meddling in Egypt’s domestic affairs.

Abdel Fattah, 40, a prominent figure in the 2011 uprising that forced long-time leader Hosni Mubarak to step down, has spent the better part of the past decade in prison. He began a partial hunger strike in April and escalated it this week by refusing to take liquids, according to his family.

His family has claimed that Abdel Fattah was being force-fed. Authorities said on Thursday that he was in good health. They also cast doubt on whether he was on a hunger strike.

In her petition, Ms Seif said her brother was desperately needed by his family because he was the only male left after her father, veteran rights campaigner Ahmed Seif Al Islam, died seven years ago.

“But the most important consideration is that Alaa is the father of an only child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia,” she wrote. She said the boy, Khaled, suffered shock after his father went back to prison in September 2019 after a six-month period of freedom.

Mona Seif, left, and her sister Sanaa hold placards calling for the release of their brother, Alaa Abdel Fattah, outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London, last month. Getty

The government has said Abdel Fattah is being treated in accordance with prison regulations and the penal code, and was receiving the medical care afforded to all inmates.

President El Sisi, in office since 2014, recently approved the release of nearly 1,000 critics who had been held in pretrial detention. In April, he called for a national dialogue to chart the country’s political future, which is currently in the preparatory stage and expected to begin before next year.

Updated: November 12, 2022, 12:58 PM