The 40-year-old British-Egyptian software developer, blogger, and political activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, has reportedly had his life sustained following unspecified “medical intervention” by Egyptian prison officials. Abdel Fattah had been on a partial hunger strike of a hundred calories a day since April. However, in early November, he informed his family that he would elevate the hunger strike to the sole consumption of water until last Sunday. Prior to the prison authorities’ “medical intervention” on around 10 November, the activist had been on a complete hunger strike, refusing food and water for a number of days. His condition is already extremely dire. 
It is important to note that Alaa Abdel Fattah poignantly chose to increase the severity of his hunger strike on the day that host country Egypt began this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference – better known as COP27.
While world leaders including US President Joe Biden and Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered their seemingly impassioned speeches to attendees, others such as Brazil’s recently re-elected President Lula remain due to make their appearance next week.
The likes of US climate envoy John Kerry, and embarrassingly, the former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have already delivered speeches at the 27th UN climate change meeting that is being held in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh.
Who is Alaa Abdel Fattah?
Born in Cairo in November 1981 – just weeks following the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat – Alaa Abdel Fattah has lived a life of political activism. Indeed, his entire family is known for its activist roots, with his late father, Ahmed Seif el-Islam, a human rights lawyer who passed away in 2014. His mother, Laila, is a mathematics professor and activist. Ahmed Seif el-Islam was himself arrested multiple times. After his 1983 arrest, he was tortured by the Egyptian security services, using electricity and beatings to inflict serious damage including a broken arm and leg. 
Alaa Abdel Fattah also has siblings who are political activists, including Mona Seif and Sanaa Seif.
The case of Alaa Abdel Fattah is not new; while he was most recently arrested in September of 2019 and charged and convicted of “spreading false news”, he has been arrested multiple times before, including in 2006, 2011, and 2013.
While attending COP27, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was urged by Sanaa Seif to intervene in this ever-increasing diplomatic sore spot. In an opinion piece published by the Guardian, she wrote on 7 November,
“The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, is in Egypt right now. He wrote to me on Saturday saying he was committed to my brother’s release, both as a British citizen and as a defender of human rights. He will probably leave Egypt in a few hours. If Alaa isn’t on the plane with him, I fear for the worst…
“So far, the UK government has not even been able to gain consular access to Alaa in prison, a basic request. It is an international humiliation for the UK government that the Egyptian regime can treat a British citizen in this way. Sunak has the opportunity to use his authority to fix this today. This is his first international visit, a test of his stature on the world stage.” 
However, following Sunak’s letter, she did not receive a reply to the extent that she had hoped. Alaa Abdel Fattah remains behind bars and the British government does not publicly appear any closer to securing his release.
Across the Atlanic, the White House has thrown itself into the ring and expressed “deep concern” regarding the activist’s detention.  In a statement to the press on Thursday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters,
“We have been in high-level communication with the Egyptian government on this case, we have deep concern about it, we would like to see him freed.” 
British government inept at diplomatic efforts to return Britons
Given the British government’s monumental failure in (until only recently) securing the release of British-Iranian journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, after she endured imprisonment for over four years and multiple hunger strikes, it is unsurprising to see the case of Alaa Abdel Fattah put on the backburner.
In the case of dual British-Iranian national Zaghari-Ratcliffe, diplomatic efforts were severely hampered in 2017, following then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s incredible parliamentary gaffe. Johnson told fellow members of the Commons,
“When we look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it, at the very limit.” 
Johnson’s remarks led to immediate and strong criticism from then Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, who demanded that the Foreign Secretary resign over what many saw as dangerous and likely to have negatively affected the treatment and imprisonment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe by the Iranian government. 
Egypt under al-Sisi
Egypt’s former field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took control of the country following a military coup d’état in the middle of 2013. Deposing Egypt’s first (and to date, last) democratically elected leader, Dr. Mohamed Morsi (raḥimahu Allah), al-Sisi has revived the Mubarak-era clampdowns on political opposition and dissent.
He has been accused of targeting activists including Alaa Abdel Fattah because of their prominent roles as opposition voices. Indeed, for Alaa Abdel Fattah in particular, it is understood that the court assigned to his case continues to refuse applications for appeal, and is uninterested in providing legal counsel access to see the detained activist.
Since the 2013 military overthrow of the Morsi government, Egypt has in some ways experienced a feeling of taking one step forward and ten steps back. The government of al-Sisi is in many ways reminiscent of the Hosni Mubarak period between 1981 and 2011.