Calm and spread of security forces in Cairo amid calls for protest

On Friday, the sister of the Egyptian-British political prisoner, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, submitted an official request for a presidential pardon, at a time when she says he is at risk of death as a result of his hunger strike for seven months.

The request comes hours after a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on the sidelines of the COP27 climate conference between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his American counterpart Joe Biden, who “stressed the importance of human rights and respect for basic freedoms” in Egypt.

Mona Seif said on Twitter, “I previously submitted a request in June, and today I submitted a new request to reiterate my commitment to take any legal path to find a solution to my brother’s crisis.”

This comes after the activist escalated his strike, and his relatives expressed a few days ago their fear of forcibly feeding him after seven months of confining him to a cup of tea and a spoon of honey a day before he stopped eating a week ago and then drinking on Sunday with the opening of a cup27.

Alaa Abdel Fattah’s family stresses that they will not be reassured until a representative of the British Embassy or one of his relatives sees him.

The Egyptian Public Prosecution said Thursday that the “vital signs” of the imprisoned dissident are “normal”, and that his “health condition is good” and “does not require his transfer to the medical center” amid growing fears for his life.

His mother, Laila Soueif, had learned from the prison authorities of Wadi El-Natrun (100 km north of Cairo) that “medical measures have been taken with the knowledge of legal authorities.”

The prosecution summoned his lawyer, Khaled Ali, on Thursday morning, to issue a visitation permit for him, but the prison refused to accept the permit dated Wednesday evening, according to the lawyer.

The lawyer had not received a visitor’s permit for nearly three years, and was summoned after an intense day of mobilization in favor of Alaa Abdel-Fattah in Cop27.

His sister, Sana Seif, held two press conferences that witnessed extensive coverage in Sharm el-Sheikh. Several leaders and officials, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, demanded the Egyptian president’s release.

Saif called on the United Nations to organize a new press conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, where COP27 is being held, so that it can submit its “request to the presidency to pardon her brother,” Khaled Ali said on Facebook Friday night.

During her first press conference at COP27, Seif, herself a former political prisoner, was verbally attacked by a pro-Sisi parliamentarian who was soon removed from the hall by UN security.

A group of independent experts commissioned by the United Nations urged Cairo to release the Egyptian-British prisoner, saying that “Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s prison and ordeal cannot become a picture of Cope27”.

On Friday, Biden delivered a speech in front of 40,000 participants in the climate conference. Al-Sisi met and welcomed, in particular, to the press, the reactivation of the presidential pardon committee in April, despite it being subjected to constant criticism from human rights activists.

The revival of the presidential pardon committee led to the release of 766 political detainees, according to Amnesty International, which said that during the same period, nearly twice that number were imprisoned because of their activism.

Since Sisi came to power in 2013 following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, the crackdown has muzzled the opposition and the entire civil society, while the number of independent media outlets has been steadily declining, according to AFP.

Social networks can also be dangerous, as 200 Egyptians have been referred to the military judiciary for publishing their opinions on them, according to non-governmental organizations.

The arrest campaign began three weeks ago with a vague call to protest on Friday.

The police deployed heavily on Friday in central Cairo, where Tahrir Square is located, the epicenter of the 2011 “revolution” of which Abdel Fattah became one of its icons. Men in civilian clothes searched phones of young men on motorbikes or pedestrians, while uniformed officers blocked certain streets.

No protesters came out, but police cars were parked on bridges leading into the city center of more than 20 million people.

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