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Hollywood stars call on British government to secure release of Alaa Abdelfattah

Hollywood stars and UK actresses Dame Judi Dench (R) and Emma Thompson (L) [Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Hollywood stars and UK actresses Dame Judi Dench (R) and Emma Thompson (L) [Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Over 1,000 celebrities have called on the UK foreign secretary to make a high-level intervention to secure the release of British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abdelfattah on the 73rd day of his hunger strike.

"We call on you to use all diplomatic power to leverage the importance of your strategic relationships with Egypt to secure [Alaa's] immediate release," said the letter, which was launched by Alaa's sister Sanaa Seif and friend Khalid Abdalla at a press conference at the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

"As public intellectuals, artists and human rights defenders, we are appalled to see the inhumane treatment of Alaa, whom we consider a peer, as he continues to be held arbitrarily in Egyptian prison."

Hollywood stars Dame Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, and Carey Mulligan are among the signatories to the letter to Liz Truss and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Alaa was detained in 2019 and has been on hunger strike since the first day of Ramadan to try and secure a consular visit which he is entitled to as a British citizen.

The renowned activist is one of 60,000 political prisoners held in Egypt's jails which are notorious for their horrendous conditions, including systematic torture and the denial of medical care, sometimes to the point of death.

READ: UN human rights chief criticised for praising 'positive steps' taken by Egypt

At the press conference Seif said: "Today marks the 74th day of Alaa's hunger strike, my brother is slowly dying in his prison cell, but he wants to live."

"He misses his life, he misses his job, he misses his son, and us."

"We're deeply puzzled by the way we've been treated by the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss. Why hasn't she met with us? Why has she still not made an official statement about Alaa? I can tell you it hurts."

"Alaa is slowly dying and hopefully we can save him, I know we have a window of opportunity to save him."

"How it could be resolved is a high-level call from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but also followed with firm negotiations from the Foreign Secretary."

The press conference follows widespread coverage of Alaa's plight in British media outlets and calls for action made by several politicians including Labour MP Zarah Sultana who sent a letter to Liz Truss lamenting the British government's close ties with the Sisi regime.

In December 2020 Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson called on the Egyptian authorities to release three senior staff members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights who had been jailed the previous month after meeting with European ambassadors to discuss the human rights situation in Egypt.

The staff members were released shortly afterward leading several Egyptians to conclude that the solidarity message helped bring about their release.

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