Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist, was transferred from Cairo’s Tora Prison Complex, a maximum-security prison where he was allegedly tortured and denied basic rights, to a new correctional facility.
His new prison, Wadi El-Natrun, is located in a desert valley 150 kilometers north of Cairo. The 40-year-old former computer programmer arrived on Wednesday morning and was allowed a visit from family members the following day.
“We’re really glad that Alaa Abdel Fattah has been removed from the ‘guardianship’ of officers who bore him a personal hatred,” said his aunt, Ahdaf Soueif, on facebook. “We’re relieved that he is in a place which has some medical facilities.”
Mona Seif, Abdel-Fattah’s sister, revealed on Facebook that for the first time in years her brother is allowed to sleep on a mattress.
Prior to his transfer, Abdel-Fattah had been on a hunger strike for almost 48 days in protest of his treatment in prison. His family said that he was denied exercise time, visitation privileges, medical care and even books.
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Numerous complaints were filed regarding his mistreatment which, according to Abdel-Fattah and his family, included being beaten and humiliated by guards. Officials denied any wrongdoings or of witnessing his hunger strike.
“Unbelievable!” said Seif on Facebook following contradictory reports from officials on Egyptian state media. “According to a [high-level] ‘security official’ on Egyptian TV, Alaa is not on hunger strike, he is eating three meals a day, he walks around and he isn’t even at a maximum-security prison!”
She went on, in a sarcastic post that tagged the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to inquire as to why the British consulate has been prevented for months from bearing witness to Cairo’s “exemplary” prisons.
Although Abdel-Fattah has since been moved, his sister said on Facebook that they don’t know if this will be an improvement.
“The problem with the prison where Alaa was is not just that it is a maximum-security prison, it is that the ministry of interior and state security and Egyptian authorities were actively depriving him of every facility and every right that should be easily provided in the prison.”
His transfer comes after a petition was signed by hundreds of Egyptian women and filed with the National Council for Human Rights. The Associated Press reports that as a result of the petition, Abdel-Fattah would be moved to a prison where human rights standards are met.
Abdel-Fattah, who gained British citizenship through his U.K.-born mother, has been imprisoned since 2014 for his part in an unauthorized protest in which he allegedly assaulted a police officer. He enjoyed a few months of freedom before being taken back into custody in a crackdown against anti-government protests.
Following the Arab Spring, a 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that spanned the Middle East and effectively toppled long-time Egypt President Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian government, now led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, implemented a law that has since banned all street protests. As a result, many top activists involved in the uprising are now in prison.
Seif said that her brother — one of Egypt’s most famous imprisoned dissidents and a symbol of the country’s 2011 revolt — will continue with his hunger strike until “an independent judge” reviews his complaints about inhumane conditions he has suffered while incarcerated.