Alaa Abdel-Fattah has not been allowed to see sunshine since 2019
A British citizen on more than 80 days of hunger strike in an Egyptian has been granted half an hour of exercise for the time in three years.
It comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss for the first time acknowledged the plight of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, 40, promising in parliamentTuesday to raise his case with the Egyptian foreign minister during an upcoming visit.
The family of the prominent British-Egyptian activist and author fears he may die after drinking just rehydration salts and tea with a bit of milk for three months.
His plight has sparked international uproar with MPs, human right fighters and even celebrities criticising the Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) for not doing enough.
For the first time, on Tuesday Ms Truss publicly acknowledged Alaa’s plight, during FCDO questions in parliament where she promised to raise his case with the Egyptian foreign minister in an upcoming visit.
Mr Abdel-Fattah, who rose to prominence during the 2011 uprising, has spent most of the last decade in jail. He is just a few months into his latest five year sentence, handed down after he shared a Facebook post that was critical of the regime. Since 2019 he has been deprived of the right to exercise, sunshine, and even to know the time.
Late Thursday Mona Seif, his sister, also a British-Egyptian activist who has joined his hunger strike , said that he was finally granted 30 minutes in the prison exercise hall but was still not permitted to go outside.
“No sun still for him, but at least he gets to walk in a wider space even if surrounded by concrete walls” she said on Twitter.
Mr Abdel-Fattah’s aunt, prominent British-Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif said even if it was a small change, “it’s an important gain”.
The British authorities have come under mounting pressure to act. Last week over 1,000 cultural figures including dozens of international stars such as Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and Mark Ruffalo, penned a letter demanding Ms Truss act.
Last month dozens of MPs and peers also wrote to the foreign secretary urging her to push for his immediate release, claiming his treatment sets a “dangerous precedent” and doing nothing could impact on the rights of all Britons abroad.
On Tuesday, ahead of a planned protest outside the FCDO offices in Westminster, Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman, raised Alaa’s case in the House of Commons.
“I assure the honourable lady that we are working hard to secure Alaa Abdel Fattah’s release,” the foreign secretary replied.
“I am seeking a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister who is due to visit the United Kingdom shortly, where I will raise this case,” she added.
Mr Abdel-Fattah launched his hunger strike three months ago demanding the basic right to a consular visit, which is permitted under Egyptian law.
Initially he only drank rehydration salts and water before switching to adding tea with milk.
His family have repeatedly told The Independent they fear he might die from the strike.