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Sister of British-Egyptian activist on hunger and water strike receives letter saying he is alive

<i>Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images</i><br/>Alaa Abd El-Fattah's supporters take part in a candlelight vigil outside London's Downing Street on November 6.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Alaa Abd El-Fattah's supporters take part in a candlelight vigil outside London's Downing Street on November 6.

By Niamh Kennedy, CNN

Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a jailed British-Egyptian activist who has been on a hunger and water strike, is alive and has resumed drinking water, authorities said in a letter to his family.

He has been on a hunger strike for more than 200 days and had stopped drinking water earlier this month.

Sanaa Seif, the activist’s sister, said in a tweet Monday that Egyptian prison officials sent a note to her mother saying Abd El-Fattah is alive and began drinking water again on Saturday. Seif said the letter was “definitely” written in her brother’s handwriting. Abd El-Fattah promised in his letter to “say more as soon as he can,” Seif said.

The family’s lawyer, Khaled Ali, said in a Facebook post Monday that Abd El-Fattah also wrote in the letter that he was “fine and under medical supervision.” Ali said he was awaiting permission from the prosecutor to visit Abd El-Fattah in Wadi Al Natroun prison, north of Cairo.

Seif held a news conference last week during which she said the family did not know if Abd El-Fattah was alive. Egyptian authorities have repeatedly resisted calls to release him.

Abd El-Fattah was a leading activist in Egypt’s 2011 uprising, which toppled the government of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak’s democratically elected successor was ousted in a coup and replaced by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current president, under whose rule civil society and free speech has been stifled.

Abd El-Fattah has spent much of the past decade in prison on charges that activists say are politically motivated. In 2019 he was sentenced to a further five years in prison for allegedly spreading false news after sharing a Facebook post highlighting human rights abuses in Egyptian jails.

Earlier this month, he escalated a more than 200-day hunger strike and stopped drinking water — a development that coincided with world leaders gathering in Egypt for the COP27 climate summit. Abd El-Fattah’s declining health cast a shadow over the event and led to renewed calls for his release, including from Amnesty International. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also raised Abd El-Fattah’s case while attending COP27.

Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said Abd El-Fattah’s situation was a “judicial matter” and he had received a “fair trial.”

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