Urgent Action Update: Health Concerns for Activist and Lawyer (Egypt: UA 132.19)

On 15 April 2020, the lawyers of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah (pictured) – who has been unlawfully detained since September 2019 – learned that he is on hunger strike at Tora Maximum Security Prison 2. The potential for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the prison only heightens concerns for his health, as well as that of human rights lawyer, Mohamed al-Baqer, who has underlying health conditions that could make him more vulnerable.



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Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Madinat al-Rehab
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2577 4716
E-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @EgyptJustice
Ambassador Yasser Reda
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 895 5400 I Fax: 202 244 5131
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @EgyptEmbassyUSA
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Counselor,

On 10 March 2020, the Egyptian authorities suspended all prison visits as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The authorities failed to introduce regular alternative means of communications between detainees and their families and lawyers, such as bi-monthly phones calls, as prescribed in Egyptian law.

Alaa Abdel Fattah’s last family prison visit was on 4 March 2020. His family is concerned for his health and wellbeing as they have no confirmation whether he received the sanitizers and the hygiene products they have sent him every week since the suspension of prison visits and whether he has access to information on measures he could take to protect himself from a potential outbreak of COVID-19. On 15 April 2020, Alaa Abdel Fattah’s lawyers were informed by the Maadi prosecution that he went on hunger strike. The lawyers were not provided with information regarding when the hunger strike started or reasons behind it. The hunger strike could weaken Alaa’s immune system and potentially put him at higher risk if he contracts COVID-19.

Mohamed el-Baqer, also detained in Tora Maximum Security Prison 2, was last visited by his family on 7 March 2020. On 18 April 2020, the prison authorities allowed his family to send him food, vitamins and a letter after refusing to accept their package a week earlier. The family also received a letter from him. Mohamed el-Baqer reportedly suffers from a number of health conditions including asthma, chest pain, back and lumbar vertebra pain and kidney problems, some of which are included on the World Health Organization’s list of vulnerable groups in relation to COVID-19. The well-documented overcrowded and unsanitary detention conditions in Egyptian prisons present an increased risk of the spread of infectious diseases.

I ask you to release Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer immediately and drop the charges on which they are being investigated, as they are detained in relation for the peaceful exercise of their rights. Pending their release, I call on you to ensure they have access to adequate healthcare and means to communicate with their families and lawyers. I finally urge you to immediately release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and take measures to protect the health of all prisoners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yours sincerely,