LONDON (MEMO/Middle East Eye) – Journalists and rights advocates have slammed the UK government for signing deals worth over £180 million ($250 million) with Egypt whilst brushing over the issue of the ongoing severe human rights violations in the country.
In a joint statement following a meeting between the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on Tuesday, the ministers agreed to work intensively to grow bilateral trade and investment, yet little was said about human rights in the country.
For the weeks preceding this meeting, the families of political prisoners in Egypt have called on Truss to urgently press the question of human rights with Shoukry as 60,000 people remain detained in Egypt for their political views.
They remain frustrated with Truss for the lack of urgency in what in many cases is a life or death situation due to the denial of medical care, the systematic torture and squalid conditions they are held in.
The family of British-Egyptian Alaa Abdelfattah sent a message to Sameh Shoukry using a van driven in central London with the word “Let our brother, son, friend, Alaa, go” written on the side of it.
“Alaa is a British citizen, father to a 10-year-old son, and an Amnesty prisoner of conscience. He has been tortured and sentenced to five years in prison for a Facebook post and denied British consular access.”
Alaa has been on hunger strike for over three months and has not received the necessary medical care he needs. His sister Mona Seif is now in her fourth week of a hunger strike after she joined Alaa to try and build pressure for his release.
In an article in the Times earlier this week, British national Jess Kelly urged Truss to raise the case of her husband Karim Ennarah in the meeting.
Karim was arrested in November 2020 following a meeting between diplomats from several countries and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), which he works for.
In another development, Egyptian authorities have re-arrested a young activist for the third time, calling into question the government’s newly launched “national dialogue” political initiative.
Aya Kamal el-Din was initially arrested in 2013 among a group known as “The girls of seven in the morning” and given a seven-year suspended jail sentence for participating in a protest in support of Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in a military coup.
She was arrested again in 2020 following a Facebook post criticizing the military for its handling of personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Egyptian lawyer Mahienour El-Massry confirmed that el-Din was arrested for a third time on Sunday from her home in Alexandria.