Relatives of Egyptian-British activist, Alaa Abdelfattah, visited him in jail on Thursday for the first time in weeks, but said his health had deteriorated sharply during his recent hunger strike, Reuters reports.
Abdelfattah said in a letter to his family earlier this week that he had ended his strike, which drew the attention of world leaders at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
US President, Joe Biden, and European leaders raised his case with Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, during the talks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
“Alaa deteriorated severely in the past 2 weeks, but at least they got to see him, and he needed to see the family so much,” his sister, Mona Seif, said in a Twitter post after the meeting at Wadi Al-Natrun jail, north-west of Cairo.
An activist and blogger who rose to prominence in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, Abdelfattah became a symbol for the tens of thousands of Egyptians – from liberals to Islamists – who were swept up in later crackdowns.
In protest against his detention and treatment in prison, he began a hunger strike on 2 April. He had recently obtained British citizenship, a move his family hoped would help secure his release and draw attention to the plight of other prisoners.
Late last month, he told his family he would stop drinking water at the start of the global climate talks. His protest drew demonstrations of solidarity inside the United Nations-administered conference area.
Video footage posted on social media from a “people’s plenary” of activists at the summit showed people chanting “Free Alaa, Free Them All”, referring to Abdelfattah and other detainees.
A European Parliament member attending the talks told Reuters he had been asked by a security guard to remove a badge with a picture of Abdelfattah and the slogan, #Freethemall. He said he was eventually allowed in, still wearing the badge.
An Interior Ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a rare official statement on the case, Egypt’s Public Prosecution said last week his condition was good, shortly after his family reported being told by prison authorities that medical intervention had been carried out to sustain him.
Sisi, who led the military overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected President in 2013 after huge national protests against the government, says security and stability are paramount and denies there are political prisoners in Egypt.