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UK: family of British man jailed in Egypt unfurl banner off Brighton Pier

© Roxy van der Post for Amnesty UK

The family of a British man arbitrarily jailed in Egypt have marked Father’s Day by unfurling a giant banner down the side of Brighton’s iconic pier as the latest stage in their ongoing campaign to secure his release from prison.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, 42, a prominent blogger and writer who has been in detention in Egypt since September 2019, is serving a five-year sentence on trumped-up charges of “spreading false news” after a grossly unfair trial.

Supported by campaigners from Amnesty International UK, earlier today members of his family dropped the giant banner - measuring four metres by three metres and bearing a “Free Alaa” message - off the pier to draw attention to Abdel Fattah’s links to Brighton, the city in which his young son lives.

Abdel Fattah’s family and Amnesty are calling on the UK government to urgently step up stalled diplomatic efforts to secure his release.

Following the banner drop, Abdel Fattah’s family and supporters gathered outside the Amnesty bookshop in Brighton’s busy Sydney Street, inviting members of the public to support the Free Alaa campaign by having their photographs taken at a traditional seaside “cut out” stand, part of what was dubbed a temporary “Unfair Funfair”. The Unfair Funfair also saw campaigners giving out sticks of rock with “Free Alaa” down the middle. The rock was lemon-flavoured as this is a personal favourite of Abdel Fattah’s.

Today’s pier stunt is part of Amnesty UK’s Path To Freedom campaign, which is calling on the Government to develop a new strategy for how it responds to cases like Abdel Fattah’s after other high-profile cases - including that of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz - highlighted serious failings. Amnesty is insisting that the strategy should include, as a minimum, the Government calling for an arbitrarily-detained person’s immediate release (including publicly where requested by the family), pressing for access to a lawyer, a fair trial and medical care where relevant, demanding consular access, insisting that UK officials be able to attend trials, and regularly meeting with family members to outline ministers’ overall approach in the case.

Omar Robert Hamilton, Alaa Abdel Fattah’s cousin, said:

"Alaa has been robbed of ten years of fatherhood. His son is growing up here in Brighton without him. His father died while he was in prison. He has been punished for writing, for inspiring people, for thinking practically about democracy.

“He is one of the most brilliant minds of his generation - and Britain should realise what an asset he would be to this country if they made the effort to reunite him with his family here. Instead, he's languishing in a cell in Egypt, missing year after year of his son's life.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“Time and time again the Government has failed arbitrarily-detained British nationals and their families during their darkest hours.

“Alaa is a distinguished democracy activist who should be hailed as such by our Government, rather than being left to languish in a jail in Egypt.

“Whoever wins the election, we need a Government with an active strategy for securing the release of Alaa, Mehran Raoof and other Brits wrongly held overseas.”

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