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Jailed Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah ends 7-month hunger strike and asks his family for birthday cake

Karina Tsui is a Breaking News reporter at Semafor. You can reach her at ktsui@semafor.com. Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.


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In a letter to his family Tuesday, jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah said he has ended his seven-month hunger strike.

"The important thing is I want to celebrate my birthday with you on Thursday... so bring a cake, normal provisions, I've broken my strike," Abd el-Fattah said in the letter that his sister shared on Twitter.

Egyptian-British hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah poses for a photo in unknown location
Omar Robert Hamilton/Handout via Reuters
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As a leading activist in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Abd el-Fattah has spent the past eight years in prison. In 2019, he was sentenced to an additional five years for “spreading false news,” prompting widespread criticism from the international community.

In April this year, he began a hunger strike against his imprisonment –– only consuming 100 calories a day. He began refusing water earlier this month, coinciding with the start of the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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In the note addressed to his mother, Abd el-Fattah said, “The important thing is I want to celebrate my birthday with you on Thursday, I haven’t celebrated for a long time, and want to celebrate with my cellmates, so bring a cake, normal provisions, I’ve broken my strike. I'll explain everything on Thursday.”

Abd el-Fattah’s family is "cautiously relieved," according to reports. His sister, Saana Seif, tweeted, "I don't know what's happening inside," adding that the family was scheduled to visit him on Thursday.

The activist's lawyer has twice been denied entry to visit him in prison, despite holding two permits from the general prosecutor, Middle East Eye reported.

“Alaa, for the first time in 3 years, still wants to celebrate his birthday with us, despite imprisonment. I pray they don't break his heart," Abd el-Fattah’s mother wrote on Twitter.

Earlier this month at COP27, Saana Seif called on world leaders to hold Egypt’s government accountable for its treatment of political activists and prisoners. She demanded that authorities present "proof of life" of her brother.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak reportedly wrote to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to request the release of Abd el-Fattah.

On Friday, Abd el-Fattah’s other sister, Mona Seif, formally requested the president to grant her brother clemency. There are an estimated 65,000 political prisoners in Egypt, according to Human Rights First, but the actual number is hard to pin down.

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