Over 100 activists petition to NCHR about jailed hunger strikers in Egypt

Ahram Online, Thursday 22 May 2014

Journalists, lawyers, activists sign petition on Wednesday asking Egypt's National Council for Human Rights to attend to ailing detainees El-Shamy and Sultan whose hunger strike has exceeded 100 days

Al-Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shamy
Al-Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shamy after more than 100 days on hunger strike (Photo released by Abdullah El-Shamy's family)

Over 100 political activists, lawyers and journalists signed a petition on Wednesday to draw the attention of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to the extreme measures some detainees have resorted to in order to demand their basic rights.

The petition mainly addressed the case of two detainees who have maintained a hunger strike for more than 100 days to protest being held without legal charges.

The first is Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shamy, who has been detained in Egypt nine months since his arrest on 14 August, when police forces dispersed protest camps held in Cairo by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, leaving hundreds killed.

The second detainee, Mohamed Sultan – son of Islamist preacher Salah Sultan – has sustained a hunger strike for 105 days and suffers deteriorating health.

The petition sent to the NCHR revealed all the details concerning the two detainees since their detention. It also included information about their health conditions.

Meanwhile, photos of El-Shamy eating and drinking in prison were circulated Wednesday on social media sites.

However, his family issued a statement claiming that the pictures were taken and posted by El-Shamy's jailers, adding that he may have been compelled to act as though he were eating in order for such pictures to be shot and posted on social media. 

"When we visited El-Shamy on 18 May, he told us he had faced intimidation with various threats in order to end his hunger strike," the family highlighted in the statement.
El-Shamy's family also affirmed that he remains on hunger strike to demand either his release or his referral to trial.

The family expressed its concern for El-Shamy's safety, since he was transferred from the Istiqbal prison to the notorious Al-Aqrab detention centre. 

In a video released by Al Jazeera and apparently shot in a prison cell, El-Shamy – looking feeble and wearing a white prison uniform – said the footage was recorded on the "106th day of my hunger strike."

A doctor who had examined El-Shamy's test results told Al Jazeera English that the journalist's condition was life-threatening and that he could "die within a few days." Another doctor later told AFP, however, that his condition would only be life-threatening if he continued his strike without receiving medical attention.

The trial of three other Al Jazeera journalists, who work for the network's English-language channel and have been held in Egypt since December, will resume on Thursday.

Baher Mohamed, Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and 17 other co-defendants face charges of airing false news and aiding or joining Morsi's banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The trial has sparked an international outcry, with the US, the European Union, international rights groups and news organisations calling for the release of the detained journalists.

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