I am writing to you to raise our concerns about the ongoing arbitrary detention and safety of prisoners Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mohamed el-Baqer. Amnesty International considers both to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely in relation to their peaceful defence of human rights.
While we are aware that in early March, the Egyptian authorities suspended all prison visits as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, prison officials have a responsibility to make sure Mohamed and Alaa are permitted to regularly send letters to their families and reassure them amidst fears of the spread of Covid-19.
I also draw your attention to the right of prisoners to receive medication provided by their families and particularly given the risks of the spread of Covid-19. Prison official arbitrarily refused to receive medication from Alaa’s family during his hunger strike from 12 April. Alaa’s mother and sister attempted to deliver vitamins, herbal beverages, rehydration solution, disinfectants and hygienic materials to him on 23 days, often spending most of the day outside the prison, but prison officials refused. After a month of no news regarding the health of Alaa, prison officials finally gave his mother Leila Soueif and sister Mona Seif a letter on 18 May. In his letter, Alaa explained that he ended his hunger strike after learning that he could proceed with his complaint over arbitrary detention through his lawyers. Alaa had gone on hunger strike in protest at his continued detention without a legal basis after the expiry of his pre-trial detention order. His detention was extended by another 45 days on 5 May without him or his lawyers in attendance. They therefore had no opportunity to challenge the legality of their detention, in violation of his right to legal recourse and freedom from arbitrary detention according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
I therefore ask you to release Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer immediately and unconditionally and drop the charges on which they are being investigated, as they are detained solely in relation to the peaceful exercise of their rights. Pending their release, I call on you to ensure they have access to adequate healthcare and means to communicate with their families and lawyers. I also ask you to ensure that the complaints related to their torture and other ill-treatment are investigated. I finally urge you to immediately release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and take measures to protect the health of all prisoners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.