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Close ties between Britain, Egypt 'makes a mockery' of democracy, says UK Labour MP Zarah Sultana

Protestors and human right activists gather outside the National Assembly to protest against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's visit to France, in Paris on December 8, 2020. [Alaattin Doğru - Anadolu Agency]
Protestors and human right activists gather outside the National Assembly to protest against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's visit to France, in Paris on December 8, 2020. [Alaattin Doğru - Anadolu Agency]

Labour MP Zarah Sultana has spoken out in support of Egyptian human rights defender Alaa Abdelfattah, who is being held in a maximum-security prison in Egypt.

In a letter to the foreign secretary, Sultana urged the British government to redouble efforts to secure UK consular access for Alaa and to summon the Egyptian ambassador to demand his immediate release.

The Labour MP also demanded that Egypt cease harassing and intimidating Egyptians living in the UK, stop threatening British and British-Egyptian citizens on arrival in Egypt and to prioritise human rights and democracy in the UK's relationship with the Sisi regime.

Alaa was arrested in September 2019 as part of a roundup of activists and political figures who were detained following Egyptian whistleblower Mohamed Ali's calls to protest. He was sentenced to five years in prison for "broadcasting false news."

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Alaa has been beaten and tortured and is now barred from sending letters. Last week, during a prison visit, he said goodbye to his family who rely on the letters for updates on his health, which is deteriorating amid a lack of medical checks.

Alaa has been on hunger strike since the first day of Ramadan and is demanding the right to a consular visit and for the conditions of his detention to improve. He is currently being held in a cell with no light.

The activist's visits have been cut to 20 minutes a month and now take place behind glass and he has been barred from accessing books or writing material.

Alaa recently became a British citizen whilst inside prison through his mother, the maths professor Laila Soueif, who was born in London.

Over recent months several former political prisoners have been given honourary citizenship by France and have relinquished their Egyptian nationality in exchange for their release, including Esraa Abdelfattah and Solafa Magdy.

Sultana said in her letter that Britain maintaining close ties with the Egyptian regime "makes a mockery" of claims that democracy, freedom and cooperation drives Britain's foreign policy.

"It is the brave Egyptians standing up for freedom and social justice that deserve support and solidarity, not the military regime that represses them. I urge you to do your utmost to secure Alaa Abdelfattah's release, before it is too late."

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