British PM Sunak to keep pressing Egypt over hunger striker

COP27 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he would keep pressing Egypt over imprisoned Egyptian-British hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who has had no contact with his family since he said he would stop drinking water this week.

Sunak, who raised the case with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the U.N. climate summit at an Egyptian Red Sea resort on Monday, said the situation was becoming "more urgent by the day.

"We will continue to press the Egyptian government to resolve the situation. We want to see Alaa freed and reunited with his family as soon as possible," Sunak told the British parliament.

Abd el-Fattah, an activist and blogger, was sentenced in December 2021 to five years on charges of spreading false news and has been on a hunger strike against his detention and prison conditions since April 2.

He told his family that he would escalate the protest and stop drinking water on Sunday, as world leaders gathered on the Red Sea coast at Sharm el-Sheikh for the COP27 climate conference.

Abd el-Fattah's family said they had not received a weekly letter from him on Monday, and his mother waited in vain for a third day outside his prison northwest of Cairo for a message from him.

"I was told there is no letter - he is well but he is refusing to write and you have to go away now," his mother Laila Soueif told Reuters. "So I'm going home and I'm coming back tomorrow."

She said she could not believe the reassurance that he was healthy if he had not been taking any liquid since Sunday. "It's been four days now. He can't be alright for four days without any intake."

Abd el-Fattah's prison protest, coinciding with the global gathering in Egypt, has focused international attention on his cause.

The head of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), whose members are appointed by parliament, said on Wednesday she hoped for a positive outcome to his and other cases.

"We want really to see no one deprived of his liberty because of an opinion he or she expressed," Moushira Khattab, NCHR President, told Reuters. "But we want everyone to get the same chance."

(Reporting by Farah Saafan and Farouq Suleiman, Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Janet Lawrence)