Alaa Abdelfattah, a prominent blogger and activist who has written about politics and human rights violations for numerous outlets, including the independent Al-Shorouk newspaper and the progressive Mada Masr news website, was arrested in September 2019 a few months after his conditional release from prison, where he had served a five-year sentence. In December 2021, he was sentenced to another five years in prison on anti-state and false news charges.
Abdelfattah was previously detained on October 27, 2014, and in February 2015 was sentenced to five years in prison for organizing an illegal protest and assaulting a police officer, charges his colleagues and family told CPJ were related to his writing on alleged human rights abuses by Egyptian security forces. On March 29, 2019, he was released from prison on the condition that for five years he report daily to a police station, according to Mada Masr.
When Abdelfattah reported to Dokki Police Station in Giza on September 29, 2019, national security agency officers arrested the journalist and prosecutors later charged him with spreading false news and supporting a banned group, according to a report by Mada Masr and a Facebook post by his lawyer, Fatma Serag.
Authorities also arrested one of Abdelfattah’s lawyers, Mohamed el-Baker, while the lawyer accompanied Abdelfattah during police questioning, and charged him with the same alleged crimes, according to news reports.
His re-arrest came as the government cracked down on protests over corruption in the army and that called on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to resign, according to news reports. Abdelfattah had posted about the protests and arrests on Facebook.
On November 19, 2020, a Cairo criminal court placed Abdelfattah on the country’s “terrorism list,” according to news reports. Under Egypt’s counterterrorism law, approved by President el-Sisi in August 2015, individuals on the list are banned, for five years, from traveling, renewing passports, and working in the public sector. They are also subject to an asset freeze.
On December 20, 2021, the Misdemeanors State Security Emergency Court in Cairo sentenced Abdelfattah to five years in prison after convicting him of spreading false news and undermining state security, according to news reports. Another Egyptian blogger, Mohamed Ibrahim, known as Mohamed Oxygen, as well as Abdelfattah’s lawyer el-Baker, were each sentenced to four years in prison on the same charges, those reports said.
Abdelfattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif, told CPJ in April 2022 that prison authorities had repeatedly denied her brother access to family visits, fresh air, and sunlight.
On April 2, 2022, Abdelfattah started a hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison and his sentence, according to Seif. Abdelfattah was consuming just 100 calories per day, and he escalated his hunger strike by stopping drinking water to coincide with the November United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh. Abdelfattah said he ended his hunger strike after he fainted and prison authorities gave him an intravenous drip, according to news reports. He is suffering from severe health complications due to the strike.
In April 2022, Abdelfattah’s family helped him obtain British citizenship through his mother, a British citizen, while imprisoned, hoping that it would add pressure on the Egyptian government to release him. In May, Abdelfattah was transferred from Cairo’s Tora Prison to the Wadi al-Natrun prison complex in Beheira Governorate, north of Cairo, according to Seif and news reports.
Seif separately served an 18-month prison sentence for allegedly spreading false news and insulting a police officer in relation to her activism on her brother’s behalf; she was released in December 2021.
The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, the prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office did not answer CPJ’s emails requesting comment on Abdelfattah’s case in September 2022.