Alaa Abd El Fattah, Egyptian Political Prisoner, Had Near-Death Experience, Family Says

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But the exact course of events at Wadi el-Natroun prison — and Mr. Abd El Fattah’s reasons for starting to eat and drink again — had remained murky.

“I want to celebrate my birthday with you on Thursday, I haven’t celebrated for a long time, and want to celebrate with my cellmates,” he wrote to his mother, Laila Soueif, in a short handwritten note from prison dated Monday afternoon. “So bring a cake, normal provisions, I’ve broken my strike.”

Mr. Abd El Fattah received the music player from his mother on Monday. The first song he played, his family said, was Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” After reducing his intake last spring to 100 calories a day of milk and honey in his tea, Mr. Abd El Fattah stopped eating altogether on Nov. 1, followed by water on Nov. 6, his family said. The dates were chosen to exert maximum pressure on the Egyptian authorities, who began hosting the annual United Nations climate conference — a global event they had hoped would bring prestige and positive headlines to Egypt — the same day Mr. Abd El Fattah stopped drinking water.

The summit, which end Friday, was soon awash in questions about his case. Egyptian officials complained that international journalists were unfairly focusing on human rights over urgent climate change matters, while the leaders of the United States, Britain, France and Germany, along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, all raised Mr. Abd El Fattah’s imprisonment with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Several protests by climate activists tied climate justice demands to demands for the freedom of Egypt’s thousands of political prisoners, holding banners that read, “We have not been defeated,” a nod to the title of a collection of Mr. Abd El Fattah’s writings, “You Have Not Yet Been Defeated.”

“Free Alaa, free them all,” attendees of the People’s Plenary, a forum for climate activists at the summit, chanted as it ended on Thursday.


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