Who is Alaa Abd El-Fattah, the British-Egyptian activist on hunger strike in prison?

Rishi Sunak has told Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s family that his case is a priority for the British government  (Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak has told Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s family that his case is a priority for the British government (Getty Images)

Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been making headlines after he decided to intensify his prolonged hunger strike in time for the start of the COP27 summit by also stopping his water consumption.

The imprisoned British-Egyptian activist has been consuming just 100 calories per day for more than 200 days in protest against the Egyptian government not giving him access to the UK consular services.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he will be raising the issue at the COP summit.

In a letter sent to Abd El-Fattah’s family, Sunak said that the activist’s case was “a priority for the British government both as a human rights defender and as a British national”.

But, who exactly is Alaa Abd El-Fattah and why is he imprisoned in Egypt? Here’s what we know.

Who is Alaa Abd El-Fattah?

Alaa Abd El-Fattah is a British-Egyptian software developer, blogger and political activist.

He is the son of Ahmed Seif El-Islam Hamad, a human rights attorney who was tortured and imprisoned in the 1980s, and Laila Soueif, a political activist and university lecturer.

His sister Mona Seif is a founding member of No Military Trials for Civilians, a group that works to raise awareness of military prosecutions and torture allegations involving military police.

Sanaa Seif, the sister of writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, the British-Egyptian activist imprisoned in Egypt, has been campaigning for his release (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Sanaa Seif, the sister of writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, the British-Egyptian activist imprisoned in Egypt, has been campaigning for his release (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

His other sister, Sanaa Seif is also an activist and a co-founder of a newspaper about the Arab spring called Gornal.

Alaa Abd El-Fattah rose to prominence during the 2011 uprising that forced long-time President Hosni Mubarak to resign.

By then, he had already been arrested several times during demonstrations and protests.

Since President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014, the pro-democracy activist and blogger has spent most of his time in prison or police detention.

Most recently, in 2021, the activist was sentenced to five years in prison for “spreading false news”. That same year, he received British citizenship through his London-born mother.

Since April 2, 2022, the software developer has been on hunger strike to protest against his imprisonment, detention conditions and the denial of consular visits.

In October, he was transferred to a “rehabilitation centre” from the Tora prison, where his family said he had been deprived of bedding, exercise, sunlight and reading materials.

During his hunger strike he consumed only water and rehydration salts for the first 55 days, then 100 calories a day. However, his family reported that he has stopped drinking water.