English PEN has appointed imprisoned writer and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah as an Honorary Member.
Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a British-Egyptian writer and activist, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Egypt. Today marks his 100th day on hunger strike.
On 2 April 2022, Alaa Abd El-Fattah began a hunger strike to protest the conditions in which he was being held. He has since been transferred from Tora Maximum-Security Prison Two and, according to his family, has finally been allowed a mattress and access to reading materials. Meanwhile, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and his family are continuing to demand his right to a visit from the British consulate: this is yet to be secured despite first being requested in December 2021.
Over four months have now passed since Abd El-Fattah began his hunger strike, and concerns for his physical and mental well-being are mounting daily.
PEN is working closely with his family and friends to call for an improvement to the conditions in which he is being held, to secure a consular visit at the earliest opportunity, and to demand his immediate and unconditional release.
Omar Robert Hamilton, Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s cousin and an editor of his recent Selected Works, commented:
‘Freedom of Expression – of thought and the courage to speak the truth whatever its consequences – is the foundation of what makes Alaa who he is. So, to become an honorary member of PEN could not be more fitting and we’re grateful for everything the organisation has done as part of our collective efforts to get him out of prison and back to the UK.’
Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, commented:
‘We are honoured to welcome British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd El-Fattah to our membership. Mr Abd El-Fattah is an extraordinary writer and thinker whose words echo and resonate around the world. His unjust imprisonment is a loss to us all. It is essential he is released immediately.’
Together with PEN centres across the UK, English PEN has written privately to the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister to raise our grave concerns for Abd El-Fattah. We co-sponsored an event at the Frontline Club at which his sisters Mona and Sanaa Seif were in conversation with journalist and broadcaster Andrew Marr. We also joined a parliamentary press conference at which Sanaa Seif spoke alongside MPs including David Lammy MP, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and the representatives of other British citizens who are or have been detained abroad, including Richard Ratcliffe.
English PEN’s President Philippe Sands, Honorary Vice President Ben Okri, and Director Daniel Gorman are among more than 1000 signatories including public intellectuals, artists, and human rights defenders to have signed an open letter to the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss calling for ‘an urgent intervention so that he can return to his family and son’ and urging her to use ‘all diplomatic leverage to immediately seek Alaa’s freedom’. Signatories including leading actors Khalid Abdalla, Olivia Colman, and Carey Mulligan were among those to read from Abd El-Fattah’s essay ‘Half an Hour With Khaled’ (featured in You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, pub. Fitzcarraldo Editions) in a poignant video to mark Father’s Day on 19 June.
Please join us in taking action in support of Alaa Abd El-Fattah as a matter of urgency.
There are a number of actions you can take today to show your support for Alaa Abd El-Fattah and his family:
- Write to your MP via the Free Alaa website: https://freealaa.net/take-action
- Call for Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s release on social media, using the hashtags #FreeAlaa and #SaveAlaa
- Send a message of solidarity to his family via [email protected]
- Follow @freedomforalaa on Twitter for regular updates
Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been detained since September 2019 on trumped-up charges of ‘spreading false news’ and ‘using social media to commit a publishing offence’. He was sentenced in December 2021, following a grossly unfair trial before The Emergency State Security Court: the sentenced has been widely condemned by leading international human rights organisations, including PEN International, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Human Rights Watch. Due to the exceptional nature of the court, Alaa Abd El-Fattah cannot appeal the decision.
Photo credit: © Mosaab el-Shamy