Home » Europe looks to gas and forgets Egyptian political prisoners – Catherine Cornet

Europe looks to gas and forgets Egyptian political prisoners – Catherine Cornet

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Europe looks to gas and forgets Egyptian political prisoners – Catherine Cornet

Since President Abdel Fattah al Sisi took power in 2014, Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah has spent most of his time on and off in prison or under house arrest.

He was last arrested in September 2019 and in December 2021 he was sentenced to five years in prison for “spreading false news” after sharing a Facebook post about human rights violations in Egyptian prisons. Thanks to the international solidarity of researchers and activists, a book of him was published, You haven’t been defeated yetwhich testifies to the intellectual strength of Abdel Fattah’s thought.

The activist went on a hunger strike on 1 April this year.

On June 13, when his family was allowed to visit him for twenty minutes, he said he was ready to go through with it. In a tweet, her sister Mona Seif writes: “I have been trying for days, but I have a hard time processing this memory. Alaa’s voice, shouting at me with frustration and anger: ‘You must abandon the idea that you will save me: I will die here, focus on how to make sure that my death has a high political price’ ”.

If his state of health is worrying, the political price for letting him die in prison does not seem to be very high for the Al Sisi regime for now: despite the dynamism of international civil solidarity towards him, the interventions of the British government and those Europeans remain far below expectations.

The disappointment with the British government
In the United Kingdom – Alaa received British citizenship a few months ago and should therefore be eligible for consular protection in London – a letter signed by over a thousand celebrities and cultural figures, including Judi Dench, Riz Ahmed, Emma Thompson, Angela Davis and Stephen Fry, asks Foreign Minister Liz Truss to “use her power to ensure the immediate release of Alaa”.

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Alaa’s younger sister, Sanaa Seif, during a press conference in the British Parliament on the 74th day of the hunger strike, said she was “deeply perplexed by the way in which we have been treated by the British Foreign Office”. For Seif, British officials, with their immobility, are “even worse than the Egyptian government”. The Cairo regime even denies that the prisoner goes on strike and the interior ministry claims that he “eats three meals a day”.

To counter this lie, Mona Seif has decided to start a hunger strike too, at least that cannot be denied. Although she, she insists: “I am not at all interested in the recognition by the Egyptian government of the strike in Alaa or mine. The point is that Alaa’s body cannot be hidden in a distant cell, isolated from the world and people ”.

Guilty silent
Together with Mona, over 70 activists in Italy organized on the initiative of Amnesty international “a solidarity fast for 24 hours in relay, to support the hunger strike in Alaa”. For the journalist and historian Paola Caridi, who together with others organized the campaign, “the idea underlying solidarity fasting is to try and share, at least for 24 hours, the deprivation of food as a tool against the deprivation of freedom” . In the United States, the Washington Post wrote an editorial stating that Joe Biden “must not talk to Al Sisi without talking about Alaa.”

But in the face of these appeals and initiatives, European governments, starting with Italy, remain shamefully silent, or perhaps even “guilty silent”, accuses the EgyptWide group, which has just published a report entitled Official accomplices which denounces the close collaboration of the Italian police with the Egyptian one from 2010 to 2020. This despite the Giulio Regeni case and the diplomatic crisis that followed between the two countries.

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The research analyzed the data presented by the Italian Ministry of the Interior on bilateral initiatives and attests “a progressive proliferation of initiatives aimed at strengthening the operational capabilities of the Egyptian police and security apparatuses, which include the supply of police and paramilitary equipment to free of charge, the provision of training courses, to which are added numerous collaborations, exchanges of experts, conferences and conventions, bilateral summits between police authorities “.

The current ambiguity of the European Union is even more worrying, given that in order not to buy Russian gas – rightly underlining the violation of the principles of international law – one turns a blind eye to the terrible violations of human rights in the Mediterranean countries: an agreement to tre was signed on June 15 in Cairo, explains the independent Egyptian site Mada Masr, in the presence of the president of the European commission Ursula von der Leyen, the Egyptian energy minister Tarek el Molla and his Israeli counterpart Karen Harar. The agreement will make it possible to transport Israeli gas to Egypt which, once liquefied, will then leave via tankers for Europe. “This is a big step forward in the supply of energy to Europe,” said Von der Leyen quoted by Reuters after meeting the Egyptian president.

For now, therefore, the famous “political price” is paid only by the numerous activists who find themselves behind bars in Egypt. The rhetoric on human rights and international law heralded by the European Union for the crisis in Ukraine obviously does not have the same value for the Mediterranean area.

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