The sister of a British-Egyptian activist held in ‘inhumane’ conditions as a political prisoner in Egypt has said Boris Johnson could secure his release.
Sanaa Seif told Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews she believed “a firm phone call” from the prime minister to the Egyptian authorities would get her brother Alaa Abd El-Fattah released from prison.
Ms Seif added that she was ‘confused’ as to why she and other members of Mr Abd El-Fattah’s family have yet to meet Foreign Minister Liz Truss as part of their campaign to free him.
Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a dual British and Egyptian citizen, became a prominent pro-democracy campaigner during the 2011 protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that led to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak.
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It was recently sentenced to five years behind bars for sharing a Facebook post about human rights abuses in Egyptian prisons in 2019 and has been on a hunger strike since last month.
Mr. Abd El-Fattah has spent eight of the last ten years in prison.
Ms Seif described being “at the time of despair”, but also “at the time of possibility”.
“We need the foreign minister and I’m confused. I don’t know why because I can see there’s a lot of sympathy. I can see there’s support,” Ms Seif told the Sky News political editor Beth Rigby. .
“We are still in contact with the embassy, so I don’t understand why we haven’t met the foreign minister yet.”
When asked what she would ask the prime minister or foreign minister to do to help her brother, Ms Seif continued: “To basically meet us, but at the end of the day I know that a call firm phone call from the Prime Minister followed by a strong negotiation from the Foreign Office would get Alaa out.
“I know we’ve seen that with the French, we’ve seen that with the Americans and we’re hearing from other governments, we’re hearing from the Germans and the Americans that they’re supporting.
“They stand with the British for this, to get this, to bring this home.”
Ms Seif said she “hopes more than ever” that her brother is released, but Mr Abd El-Fattah “unfortunately is not”.
“Alaa thinks he’s going to die in prison,” she told Sky News.
“I’m hopeful. I’m really hopeful. I think it’s easy, it’s simple if we get to the right people.
“I think there’s a precedent, we know the recipe for doing it. The French have done it, the US has done it, and the UK is certainly capable of doing it. That’s just a matter of going about it the right way.”
Ms Seif added that the UK had succeeded in securing Anglo-Iranian prisoners Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were released in March although he had to negotiate with Iran which is “a hostile country”.
Referring to her brother’s detention, she also described how Mr Abd Ed-Fattah “became one of the main targets of the regime” in 2013 when the army took power in Egypt.
“For them, Alaa is just a symbol and a symbol that inspires a younger generation. So they attack Alaa and keep putting him in jail to set an example with him,” Ms Seif said.
“Alaa was sentenced to five years for a protest and a protest he didn’t organize,” she continued, adding, “He got out, then they arrested him again and took him away. indicted for posting on Facebook.
“A Facebook post he didn’t write, a Facebook post he shared about human rights abuses happening in a prison.”
Ms Seif said the last time she saw her brother was in March and he had not been on a hunger strike for the past 75 days.
She added that her sister had seen Mr Abd El-Fattah last week and that he “looked very weak” and “like he was just skin and bones”.
Last month, a group of MPs and peers wrote to the Foreign Secretary urging her to take action to secure Mr Abd El-Fattah’s release.
A letter to Ms Truss signed by 10 MPs – including Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, Tory David Jones and Liberal Democrat Layla Moran – and 17 members of the House of Lords – says he is being held in “inhumane” conditions.
They said that Mr. Abd El-Fattah, father of a 10-year-old boy, had been deprived for two and a half years of reading material, exercise, sunshine or bedding.
The letter called on the government to “use all possible means” to secure consular access for Mr Abd El-Fattah, insist on immediate improvements to his conditions and a transfer out of the maximum security prison.
He also asked ministers to push for his release “either in Egypt or in the UK”.
Commenting after the letter was published, shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said the treatment of Mr Abd El-Fattah by the Egyptian authorities had become “increasingly cruel and degrading”.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK government continues to raise the case of Alaa Abd El-Fattah at the highest levels of the Egyptian government.
“We are working urgently to ensure consular access to Mr. Abd El-Fattah. We are also concerned by reports that he is on hunger strike.
“The well-being of British nationals in detention remains a high priority.”
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