Egyptian prosecutors deny imprisoned activist faced harm

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian prosecutors are denying allegations of torture and ill-treatment leveled by a prominent imprisoned activist and claim he is in good condition, years after the allegations were made.

For nearly 10 days, Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s family members say they have not heard from him and have been told by prison officials he’s refusing to meet with them. Amnesty International has urged Egyptian authorities to allow the family access to the 40-year-old programmer and father serving a five-year sentence.

He was sentenced in December on charges of spreading false news, a charge often used to sentence opposition and pro-democracy activists in Egypt. His family says he has been on hunger strike since April to protest his detention and has voiced serious concerns for his health.

His imprisonment has come to symbolize the broad crackdown on dissent that has targeted not only Islamists from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood but also secular activists, economists, writers and others under the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

A statement released late Thursday by the Public Prosecution Office said a senior prosecutor was dispatched on Wednesday to Wadi el-Natrun Prison to investigate nearly three-year-old claims that Abdel-Fattah was beaten and denied basic rights. Abdel-Fattah’s complaints stem from when he was previously held at the Tora prison complex in southern Cairo.

After examining Abdel-Fattah, the prosecutor concluded that he showed no marks of torture, the statement said.

“The inmate is in good health and a doctor examines him regularly, along with other inmates. He never had any health complaint,” read the statement.

Abdel-Fattah’s sister, Mona Seif, wrote on Twitter that the prosecutor’s statement provides the family with proof that her brother is alive.

“That is the most important update now,” she said.

His aunt, award winning novelist Ahdaf Soueif, cast doubt on the seriousness of the prosecutors’ investigation.

“They are examining Alaa and concluding that they cannot see any signs of beatings that actually took place two years and nine months ago,” she wrote on Twitter.

Abdel-Fattah, an outspoken dissident, rose to prominence during the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and has spent most of the past decade behind bars.

His family has filed multiple complaints since 2019 about him being denied access to books, exercise time outside his cell, regular visits and proper medical care. In May, authorities transferred him from Tora Prison to the newly-inaugurated Wadi el-Natrun prison, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Cairo.

Earlier this year, Abdel-Fattah gained British citizenship through his mother, Laila Soueif, a math professor at Cairo University who was born in London. The family said at the time they sought a British passport for Abdel-Fattah as a way out of his “impossible ordeal.” The family has been asking authorities to grant him access to a consular visit.

On Friday, the U.K. Foreign Office said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss raised Abdel-Fattah’s case during a meeting with her Egyptian counterpart earlier this month in London. It said Britain is working to secure his release and called on Egyptian authorities to ensure his welfare needs are met while in prison.

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