The family of a British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist who went on hunger strike in an Egyptian jail say they have received confirmation he is still alive.
Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been on hunger strike against his detention and prison conditions for the last six months, taking just 100 calories a day.
Last week he escalated his hunger strike and stopped taking water to coincide with the start of the COP27 climate change summit in the Red Sea resort Sharm El-Sheikh.
“I’m so relieved. We just got a note from prison to my mother, Alaa is alive, he says he’s drinking water again as of November 12,” Mr Abd El-Fattah’s sister Sanaa Seif tweeted.
“He says he’ll say more as soon as he can. It’s definitely his handwriting. Proof of life, at last. Why did they hold this back from us for 2 days?!”
The 40-year-old’s family and lawyer had made repeated trips to the prison where he is detained northwest of Cairo but had received no news of his condition.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raised Mr Abd El-Fattah’s plight with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the United Nations climate talks.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the government was keeping “a very, very close eye” on his case.
“It’s a case that the Foreign Office has raised over a number of years in support of him. The Egyptians do not recognise him as a British citizen,” he said.
“We disagree with them on that and we have highlighted this disagreement to them at every level up to and including the prime minister in his discussions with President Sisi.”
‘Medical intervention’ days after escalating hunger strike
On Thursday, Egypt’s public prosecutor said Mr Abd El-Fattah was in good health after the family said they were informed a medical intervention had been carried out.
The nature of the intervention was not made clear but his family expressed fears prison officials would force-feed the activist, which they said would amount to torture.
Last week an Egyptian MP was removed from a news conference about Mr Abd El-Fattah after he questioned whether he was a political prisoner and shouted at Mr Abd El-Fattah’s sister.
Celebrities speak out for activist
Mr Abd El-Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison in December last year after being charged with spreading fake news over a Facebook post he shared about human rights abuses in Egyptian prisons in 2019.
Celebrities who have spoken out in his support include Dame Judi Dench, Dame Emma Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Carey Mulligan and Khalid Abdalla.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg refused to join COP27 because she disagreed with the country’s human rights abuses and was seen at a protest in solidarity with Mr Abd El-Fattah.