The United States is doing “everything it can” to secure the release of Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah from jail in Egypt and President Joe Biden raised the case with his Egyptian counterpart, the US national security adviser said on Saturday.
Biden, who flew into Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharmel-Sheikh to attend the COP27 climate talks on Friday, had “an extended discussion on the issue of human rights” with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jake Sullivan said
“We had intensive consultations on that case while we were on the ground in Sharm,” he said, adding that Biden had directed his officials to work with the Egyptians on several cases including Abd el-Fattah’s.
“We are doing everything we can to secure his release, as well as the release of several other political prisoners,” Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One after leaving Egypt.
Sisi said he told Biden that Egypt has launched a national strategy for human rights and a national dialogue.
Abd el-Fattah, a blogger and activist, rose to prominence in Egypt’s 2011 uprising before being swept up in a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent after Sisi, then army chief, led the 2013 ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi.
Rights groups say tens of thousands of people have been arrested since then including Islamists, leftists and liberals. Sisi and his supporters say security and stability are paramount.
Abd el-Fattah has been in detention for much of the last decade. He launched a hunger strike on April 2 and then escalated his protest saying he would stop drinking water on the 6th of November to coincide with the opening of the climate talks.
His mother, who has been making daily visits to the prison northwest of Cairo where he is being held, has received no news from her son but said prison officials told her on Thursday that medical intervention was made for his health.
Sullivan said the United States had no information on his condition.
“The Egyptians have one story on this. His family has a different story. And this is a circumstance where it’s not ‘trust but verify, it’s ‘verify’. And we’ve not been able to do that,” he said.
Abd el-Fattah’s sister Mona Seif said on Friday she had appealed directly to Sisi for an amnesty for her brother and resubmitted an official request for clemency which she first made in June.
On Saturday she said the family still had no update on his condition or the medical intervention.
Abd el-Fattah’s lawyer Khaled Ali went to the prison on Thursday after receiving a rare authorisation to visit from the public prosecutor but said he was denied access because the permit carried Wednesday’s date.