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COP27: Nobel Prize Winners Demand Egypt Demand Political Prisoners

Nobel laureates call on world leaders to put pressure on Cairo to release dissidents, including Alaa Abd el-Fattah, ahead of the COP27 summit.

More than a dozen Nobel laureates have urged world leaders to put pressure on Egypt, the host of the COP27 International Climate Conference, to release “thousands” of political prisoners, including prominent Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah.

The 15 Nobel laureates urged the leaders to “use every opportunity” during the conference “to bring the voices of the unjustly imprisoned into the room” in a letter sent to the United Nations, the European Council, and heads of state in France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, among others.

The UN-organized COP27 will take place from November 6 to 18 in the Egyptian Red Sea city of Sharm el-Sheikh, with the goal of bringing governments together to accelerate efforts to address the world’s climate crisis.

Among the laureates are Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, American poet Louise Gluck, Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, and British author Kazuo Ishiguro said, “We urge you to use the opportunity that is now in your hands to help those most vulnerable, not just to the rising seas, but those imprisoned and forgotten – specifically in the very country that has the privilege of hosting you,”

“We ask you to use your plenary address to speak the names of the imprisoned, to call for their freedom, and to invite Egypt to turn a page and become a true partner in a different future: a future that respects human life and dignity,” they added.

Egypt has cracked down on dissent ahead of COP27, releasing an Indian environmental activist who had been detained the day before.

Following the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 by then-army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, public protests have been effectively banned in Egypt.

El-Sisi, Egypt’s president since 2014, claims that security measures are required to stabilize the country. The crackdown included both liberal activists and Muslim Brotherhood members.

Morsi died in government custody in 2019.

According to a rights group, Egyptian security forces arrested nearly 70 people in connection with calls for protests to coincide with the summit.

According to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a non-governmental organization, at least 67 people had been arrested in Cairo and other cities over the previous few days and had appeared in front of state security prosecution in relation to calls for protests on November 11.

“We ask you, in your address, to bring the voices of the unjustly imprisoned into the room. Alaa Abd al-Fattah’s powerful voice for democracy is close to being extinguished,” the laureates, who won what is arguably literature’s most prestigious award, said.

Abd el-Fattah has begun a full-fledged hunger strike ahead of the climate summit, with supporters claiming he will be dead or free when world leaders meet next week.

In a letter to his family, the activist stated that he would begin a zero-calorie hunger strike on Tuesday and stop drinking water on November 6, when global climate talks are set to begin. The influential 40-year-old blogger has been on a partial hunger strike for months, consuming only 100 calories per day, raising concerns about his health.

An outspoken dissident, Abd el-Fattah rose to prominence during the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East and toppled Egypt’s longtime President, Hosni Mubarak.

He was sentenced for the first time in 2014 after being convicted of participating in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. He was released in 2019 after serving a five-year sentence but was arrested again later that year as part of a crackdown on rare anti-government protests.

He was sentenced to another five-year term in December 2021 on charges of spreading false news. Separate charges have been filed against him for misusing social media and joining a “terrorist” group, a reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities designated as a “terrorist organization” in 2013.


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