Jailed Egyptian Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah Transferred to Prison Hospital

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Published Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Leading Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, jailed for violating a strict protest law, was moved to a prison hospital this week after more than two months on hunger strike, a relative told Reuters on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old blogger and software engineer was transferred to a prison hospital on Monday morning after his blood sugar level plunged, according to his cousin, Omar Robert Hamilton.

Wednesday marked the 80th day of Fattah's hunger strike, Hamilton said. He is one of several jailed activists to have mounted hunger strikes in the past year to protest their imprisonment.

Fattah’s 20-year-old sister Sanaa is serving a two-year sentence for violating the protest law.

Fattah has been in and out of jail since 2011 on various charges. He was rearrested most recently in October along with 20 other people pending their retrial on charges of breaking a law that bans protests without a police permit.

The law, enacted in 2013, has curtailed the street demonstrations that have been a regular feature of the turbulent years since Hosni Mubarak's ouster in a popular uprising in 2011.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday Egyptians have the right to demonstrate but cautioned that protesting now could cause more harm to the country's battered economy.

Fattah's lawyers and relatives say the charges are politically motivated and baseless.

The authorities have relentlessly repressed all kinds of opposition – Islamist as well as secular – since the military ousted president Mohammed Mursi last July.

Following the coup against Mursi, authorities banned association to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, and launched a heavy cracked down on its members, leaving at least 1,400 dead and 15,000 jailed, including hundreds sentenced to death for allegedly taking part in deadly riots in August 2013.

Moreover, several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mursi, are themselves on trial in cases which carry the death penalty if convicted.

Besides Islamists, many of the leading secular activists, like Alaa, have also found themselves on the wrong side of the new political leadership, getting locked up for taking part in peaceful demonstrations following the ban on unlicensed protests.

Egypt was brought in November in front of the UN’s top human rights body for a litany of rights abuses, including its crackdown, mass arrests and unfair trials targeting journalists and activists, described as “unprecedented in recent history.”

"Mass death sentences are fast losing Egypt's judiciary whatever reputation for independence it once had," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement.

While activists were getting jail sentences, a court last November dismissed charges against Mubarak for ordering security forces to kill protesters during the 2011 uprising.

That verdict, and others handed down to Mubarak-era figures, has led some to conclude that the old regime that existed before either revolution is back in all but name.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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