** UPDATE: PEN is deeply concerned by recent reports that Abd El Fattah and other prisoners at Tora Prison Complex B (where Abd El Fattah is imprisoned) are not allowed to receive any books, apart from textbooks for study purposes. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that recreational and cultural activities should be provided, and that prisoners should be allowed some contact with the outside world, including by receiving correspondence from family as well as having access to newspapers, periodicals or special institutional publications. PEN believes that books and newspapers are essential for the transmission of thought and enrichment of culture and education, and calls for the authorities to allow Alaa Abd El Fattah and all other prisoners in Tora Prison Complex B to receive books and other printed materials such as magazines and newspapers. **
Today, 23 February, marks two years since the prominent blogger and political activist Alaa Abd El Fatttah was handed down a five-year prison sentence on following a trial in 2015.
Alaa Abd El Fattah was one of the very first bloggers in Arabic and was the first to aggregate blogs coming out of Egypt. He has always worked for freedom of expression, bothin his writing and in his work as designing open-source digital software. He was one of the first Egyptian netizens seeking to facilitate a movement for political change in the wake of the January 2011 uprising and, later, was among the many activists and political activists to fall foul of the controversial November 2013 law banning peaceful protest without government permission.
Following his arrest, Abd El Fattah staged a partial hunger strike in prison in protest at his treatment, drinking only juice and other fluids. He was released on bail in 2014 having spent 115 days in prison. He was rearrested at the resumption of his trial in October 2014 and sentenced four months later to five years in prison. He has three years still to serve. Meanwhile, the authorities have sought to bring new charges against him, in an obvious attempt to extend his detention and to deter others from speaking out.
English PEN calls for Abd El Fattah’s immediate release. We will be continuing to raise and maintain awareness of Alaa’s unlawful imprisonment and to support him and his family. We will also be highlighting his case at the English PEN Modern Literature Festival where poet Mischa Foster Poole will perform a new piece in his honour at London’s Rich Mix.
Spread the word
Please share details of Alaa Abd El Fattah’s case and examples of his writing on social media and with friends and colleagues. If you have a Twitter account, please consider tweeting your support with the hashtag #FreeAlaa and following his account – @alaa.
Send a message of support
If you would like to send a message of support to Alaa and his family please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Read and share Alaa’s work
Read Alaa’s extraordinary piece for the Guardian, written from Cairo’s Tora Prison in January 2016
Send letters of appeal
Write to the Egyptian authorities:
- Expressing concern at the continued imprisonment of Alaa Abd El Fattah;
- Urging the authorities to ensure that he is not subject to any ill-treatment while in prison;
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Alaa Abd El Fattah, and any others held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance with Egypt’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party.
- Urging the authorities to allow Alaa Abd El Fattah regular exercise and access to fresh air while in prison; Urging the authorities to allow Alaa Abd El Fattah and all other prisoners in Tora Prison Complex B to receive books and other printed materials such as magazines and periodicals, newspapers and any personal correspondence, in addition to text books for study purposes, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of PrisonersPresident
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,
Office of the President,
Al Ittihadia Palace,
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt,
Fax: +202 2 391 1441
Salutation: Your Excellency
Twitter: @AlsisiOfficialMinister of Justice
Mohamed Hossam Abdel Rahim
Ministry of Justice,
Fax: +202 2 795 8103
Salutation: Dear Minister