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Activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, on "full hunger strike" in Egypt prison, will refuse water during COP27

London — Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a prominent rights activist imprisoned in Egypt, went on "full hunger strike" on Tuesday and intends to start refusing even water from the first day of the COP27 climate conference, which kicks off this weekend in northern Egypt, according to his family. The dual Egyptian-British citizen has been on a hunger strike for months in hopes that the U.K. government might take action on his case.

Alaa has been behind bars in Egypt for most of the last eight years. He was an important figure in pro-democracy "Arab Spring" protests that led to the overthrow of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He's been locked up, on charges that human rights groups dismiss as spurious, for virtually all of Egypt's current authoritarian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's rule, since 2014.

"Regardless of how it ends, Alaa has already won this battle," his sister, Mona Seif, said in a tweet on Tuesday. She said he could either be freed, or "if he doesn't make it and dies in prison, his body will tell the whole world what a bunch of liars you all are, ruthless inhumane creatures that should not be trusted with one plant let alone people and the future of this planet." 

For the last 200 days, Alaa has been consuming less than 100 calories daily, and his family says they're worried for his life. They have been calling on the British government to pressure the Egyptian government to at least allow a British consular visit to Alaa in prison.

Alaa's other sister, Sanaa Seif, set up camp outside the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in London about two weeks ago to draw further attention to her brother's case.

Last week, 64 members of both houses of the U.K. parliament wrote to the British foreign secretary to ask him to use the COP27 summit as an opportunity to secure Alaa's release.

"Alaa's situation is so grave that it requires a robust message," the U.K. lawmakers wrote. "In that light, we strongly encourage you to make clear to your Egyptian counterparts that Britain's engagement with COP will be seriously undermined by the continued mistreatment of one of its citizens."

A foreign office spokesperson told the BBC on Tuesday: "We are working hard to secure Alaa Abdel Fattah's release and we continue to raise his case at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. The foreign secretary most recently raised his case when he met Egyptian Foreign Minister [Sameh] Shoukry at the United Nations General Assembly in September."

Meanwhile, it was reported that Egyptian authorities had already arrested nearly 70 people in connection with calls issued on social media for people to stage protests on November 11, during COP27.

Protests have effectively been banned in Egypt since al-Sisi cracked down on political dissent when he came to power, but Egypt's COP27 organizers have said that limited demonstrations will be allowed in designated areas.

One activist from India named Ajit Rajagopal was detained in Cairo after setting off on a solo march for climate justice, where he aimed to walk to the site of the COP27 conference in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Reuters said. He was released after being questioned for hours over a poster he was carrying showing the route of his walk.

Campaigners including climate activist Greta Thunberg, who's skipping this year's climate conference but visited Alaa's sister Sanaa at her camp outside the foreign office in London, have expressed doubt over the extent to which activists will be able to freely express themselves around the summit. 

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