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Berlin protest against Egyptian dictatorship

Protesters hold placards and portraits of political prisoners in Egypt during a July 18, 2022 demonstration in Berlin. (Photo: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)

German Chancellor, Greta Thunberg Call for Release Hunger Striker Alaa Abd El Fattah

"There is no climate justice without social justice and human rights," the Swedish climate campaigner asserted.

Brett Wilkins

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg on Tuesday joined the growing chorus of calls demanding that United Nations Climate Change Conference host Egypt release hunger-striking political prisoner Alaa Abd El Fattah.

"Human rights and climate movements are stronger when we stand in solidarity together."

El Fattah, who is Egyptian-British, has been jailed almost continuously for the past decade for his activism, especially his prominent role in the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East in the early 2010s. He is currently serving a five-year sentence after being convicted of spreading "false news undermining national security," a common charge against activists in Egypt.

El Fattah's health has dangerously deteriorated as a result of the hunger strike he's been on since April 2 to protest the torture—including brutal beatings and solitary confinement—and other abuses he says he's endured at the hands of authoritarian President Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's forces. 

"It is depressing to see that human life is at risk," Scholz told reporters in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on Tuesday. "A decision needs to be taken, a release has to be made possible so that it doesn't come to it that the hunger striker dies."

Referring to the U.N. climate conference, Thunberg wrote on Twitter that "during COP27, we urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those held simply for peacefully exercising their human rights, implementing criteria set by local NGOs for these releases: fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, and urgency. One of these prisoners is Alaa Abd El Fattah."

"A system that doesn't address the needs for climate justice and securing human rights is a system that has failed everyone—we need to keep both in mind," the 19-year-old Fridays for Future founder added. "Human rights and climate movements are stronger when we stand in solidarity together. There is no climate justice without social justice and human rights."

On Tuesday, Amr Darwish, an Egyptian lawmaker with close ties to el-Sisi, confronted El Fattah's sister, Sanaa Seif, as she spoke at a press briefing, accusing her of "inciting foreign countries to put pressure on Egypt" before being escorted away by security.

Human rights groups have sounded the alarm in recent months over the Egyptian government's persecution of climate activists, as well as voicing concerns that the official app being used at COP27 could be exploited to spy on environmentalists and other dissidents.

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