Prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah has started a hunger strike while in detention amid a "decisive moment" that came after visiting his sick father in the hospital, a statement from the family said on Tuesday.
The statement quoted Abdel-Fattah as saying: "I will not play the role they have drawn for me." It did not elaborate.
Abdel-Fattah has been jailed pending a retrial on charges of rioting, destruction of public property and using violence against security forces.
A first verdict sentenced Abdel-Fattah and 24 others to 15 years in prison and fines of LE100,000 each. The next retrial session will take place on 10 September.
His younger sister, Sanaa, is also on trial for violating a protest law issued last year banning unauthorised demonstrations – deemed restrictive by rights groups.
The two were allowed to visit their father, Ahmed Seif El-Islam, a prominent human rights lawyer, as his heath has been deteriorating after recent open-heart surgery.
El-Islam was unconscious during the hospital visit, a scene that the family's statement described as a "decisive moment" for the activist Alaa, who decided afterwards that he "will not cooperate with this absurd and unfair situation, even if it costs him his life."
"We – Alaa's family, friends and loved ones – hold this regime accountable for ... the safety of Abdel-Fattah, who started a hunger strike as of Monday 18 August until he is released," said the statement, published on the Facebook page titled "Free Alaa Abdel-Fattah".
The statement said that Abdel-Fattah is now in prison for the third time since the 25 January 2011 uprising and that each time the authorities have "come up with a new fake charge," adding that the costs of detention are grave: depriving him from attending the birth of his son, taking him away from his family and affecting his work.
"Alaa has taken the decision and the initiative. His action's risk is befitting the gravity of his situation and pain," the family said.