During the Sharm Al-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27), held in Egypt in November 6-8, 2022, Egyptian and Western human rights activists and organizations attempted to leverage this international event, attended by many world leaders, to raise awareness in the West about the issue of political prisoners in Egypt, who reportedly number in the tens of thousands. The activists promoted this issue via several social media campaigns. But the most prominent event was a November 12 demonstration organized by Sanaa Seif, the sister of Egyptian political prisoner 'Alaa 'Abd Al- Fattah. The demonstration was held outside the climate conference and was attended by hundreds.
'Alaa 'Abd Al- Fattah is a well-known social and human rights activist, and one of the symbols of the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Since 2006 he has been imprisoned multiple times for participating in protests and voicing criticism against the Egyptian authorities' human rights violations. His latest arrest was in September 2019, apparently for tweeting in support of protests held one week earlier against the Egyptian regime, following which hundreds of people were arrested. His sentence, of five years in prison, was published only two years after his arrest, in December 2021, and he is still serving it. He was convicted of spreading false news undermining national security, of belonging to a terrorist organization and of abusing social media, apparently for sharing a tweet about an Egyptian who had been tortured to death in prison. In April 2022 'Abd Al-Fattah, who has British citizenship, started a hunger strike in protest at the harsh conditions of his imprisonment, and on November 6, the day the climate conference started, he also announced he would stop drinking water, in an attempt to increase the pressure on the authorities to release him.
Western and UN officials have joined 'Abd Al-Fattah's family in demanding his release. In a statement issued on November 8, 2022, during the climate conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk urged the Egyptian government to immediately release him from prison and "provide him with the necessary medical treatment," and also to " release all those arbitrarily detained" and "revise all laws that restrict civic space and curtail the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.” According to reports, several world leaders attending the climate conference -- including U.S. President Biden, French President Macron, British Prime Minister Sunak and German Chancellor Scholz all raised the issue of 'Abd Al-Fattah with Egyptian President Al-Sisi, but apparently to no avail.
The criticism of the human rights situation in Egypt did not abate after the climate conference ended. On November 24, 2022 the European Parliament passed a resolution urging Egypt to release political prisoners, including 'Alaa 'Abd Al-Fattah, to respect freedom of assembly and ensure equality for all Egyptians before the law, and condemning the use of torture by Egypt’s security apparatus.
Egypt, for its part, rejected the criticism, claiming that it is false and constitutes interference in its lawful handling of its internal affairs. Its UN delegation called the statement of High Commissioner Türk unobjective and an infringement on the independence of Egypt's judiciary and rule of law. Türk, it added, had relied on baseless information coming from sources that spread false claims. The Egyptian Judges' Club issued a similar statement, saying that the Egyptian judiciary is capable of telling the difference between human rights and violations of the law.  The Egyptian parliament stated on November 25 that the European Parliament's resolution constituted interference in Egypt's affairs and was based on unreliable information.
Supporting the position of the authorities, the Saudi press published many articles viciously attacking 'Alaa 'Abd Al- Fattah and calling him a terrorist, and slamming those urging his release. One claimed that 'Abd Al- Fattah incited to kill members of the Egyptian army and security forces and is therefore no different from the leaders of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Another claimed that, by supporting 'Abd Al- Fattah, the UN is implicitly supporting terrorism, and called High Commissioner Türk "the UN High Commissioner for Terrorism." Other articles accused the European Parliament of ignoring human rights violations in Europe while allowing itself to interfere in Egypt's internal affairs and criticize its human rights record.
This report reviews some of the harsh articles published in the Egyptian press against the UN, Britain and the US for their support of 'Alaa 'Abd Al- Fattah.
Human rights and social activist 'Alaa 'Abd Al- Fattah (image: Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, December 20, 2021)
Al-Ahram Board Chairman: 'Alaa 'Abd Al-Fattah Is No Different From The Leaders Of Al-Qaeda And ISIS
'Abd Al-Muhsen Salama, chair of the Al-Ahram state daily's board of directors, wrote: "There is a big difference between terror and incitement to murder [on the one hand] and freedom of opinion and political dissent [on the other]. The last two are clearly protected and are important to defend, whereas terror and incitement to murder are a completely different matter, which must be handled only by the courts in order to do everything that must be done to protect the security of the homeland and the citizenry. [The late] Al-Qaeda leader [Osama] Bin Laden and his successor Al-Zawahiri, and [the late] leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, were never caught carrying bombs or killing people in the streets, but they were even more dangerous than [the people who do that], because they founded terror organizations aimed at murder and destruction and encouraged many terrorists to commit crimes of murder and destruction.
"There is no difference between these [terrorists] and those who publicly call to murder officers and who form armed organizations to kill them, or even worse, those who call to murder sons and torture mothers. Imagine that someone calls to kill sons and torture mothers, and then we see people defending this convicted criminal. There is no difference between terror organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and someone who calls to kill young children and old mothers… Both of them foster terrorism, incite to murder, including collective murder, spark civil strife, dismember societies and double the number of murders in the country.
"'Alaa 'Abd Al-Fattah was prosecuted by the court and is serving the sentence imposed on him according to the law. His case is being handled by the judiciary, like other criminal cases of the same sort. Despite his hideous crimes, he enjoyed all his rights, just like other prisoners. Anyone who wants to submit a request regarding him can appeal to the courts…
"Addressing the matter explicitly [in its statement], the Egyptian Judges' Club stressed that the judges of Egypt oppose this intervention in their affairs and noted that the Egyptian judiciary has never, throughout its history, accepted intervention by any element, domestic or foreign, and that it is well aware of the difference between free speech and crimes that are punishable by law... There can be no lenience towards those who support terrorism and call to kill children and mothers."
Egyptian Journalist: The UN High Commissioner Defends Terrorists
Hamdi Rizq, a columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm and the daily's former editor, wrote under the headline "The UN High Commissioner for Terrorists' Rights": "The power of the Judges' Club's statement lies in its principled stance and in the fact that it directly addresses [UN] High Commissioner [for Human Rights] Volker [Türk]. Whoever drafted this statement put [Türk] in his place, and stripped him of his false pretenses and of his cloak of defending human rights, thus exposing his political shame. He also exposed [Türk's] open prejudice, which reflects a hideous ignorance. The high commissioner has not yet completed one month in office – he was appointed on October 17, 2022 – yet he [already] disregards the abilities of [Egypt's] noble judiciary.
"In his [lofty ] UN position, the high [commissioner] is famously meant to transcend trivialities, take a neutral stance, respect [countries'] judiciaries and refrain from interfering in their internal affairs. He [must] ask and verify, and discover [the facts] before embroiling himself [in such affairs]. He must ask and verify [the facts], and if some issue – which the judiciary has considered at every level – is unclear to him, he must investigate it until it becomes clear to him. Before he makes foolish remarks he must wait and consider carefully. Human rights are not goods traded in Egypt's markets… Our message to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is clear: They [the UN human rights organizations] are allowing themselves to exploit the platform of the [Office of the UN] High [Commissioner].
"We are sick of this worn-out old refrain about human rights. Egypt is not a banana republic. The Egyptian understands your hidden goals, and the Egyptian judiciary is not a pawn for your notorious manipulations. Oh High [Commissioner], you have failed, and have branded yourself a protector of terrorist organizations around the world. Unfortunately, your grounds for prosecution collapsed and have no evidentiary basis. Had you examined the [Egyptian] prosecution's case before uttering your foolish remarks, you would have understood where you were standing before slipping into a fetid pond of falsehood and lies.
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"Oh Volker [Türk], you sadly fell into the talons of a terrorist organization… Sadly, we did not hear from your office even one word [of condemnation] the day the bullets of terrorism killed 3,000 Egyptian martyrs – soldiers, police officers and civilians. We did not see you issuing any statement the day 80 Egyptian churches were torched, the day the Al-Butrousiyya church [i.e., St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Cairo] was torched, and the day the Al-Rawda Mosque was attacked. You shut your ears to the cries of the bereaved mothers, widows and orphans of the martyrs. You closed your eyes to the publications and videos issued by the murderous terrorist gangs on the terrorist platforms.
"In sum, you are the commissioner for sponsoring terror and its collaborators. You are defending terrorists. Oh Volker, you are not a high [commissioner]. You are just a parrot whose brain is in its ears."
Egyptian Journalist: Britain Is Bluntly Interfering In Egypt's Affairs, Defending Terrorist
In an article in the state daily Akhbar Al-Yawm, journalist Muhammad Hassan Al-Banna slammed Britain, which had also condemned the imprisonment of 'Abd Al-Fattah. He wrote under the title "No Longer a Superpower": "Britain insists on calling itself 'Great,' even though it is no longer great. In the 18th century it conquered many countries in the east, west, south and north, and called itself 'the great empire on which the sun never sets.' It plundered the resources of the countries it conquered, killed many of their citizens and used traitors and weak people as puppet rulers. But in their revolutions of liberation, [these countries] managed to defeat the British armies and forced them to leave. Chief of the freedom-loving leaders were Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser [of Egypt], [Nelson] Mandela [of South Africa], [Kwame] Nkrumah [of Ghana] and [the Mahatma] Gandhi [of India].
"This is the Britain that is now ruled by the Indian sheikh [British PM] Rishi Sunak. People wondered why he hurried to step off the stage at the climate summit in Sharm Al-Sheikh after one of his aides whispered in his ear. The British government issued no clear statements to explain this incident, but the observers and commentators did not keep silent. The reasonable explanation was the something serious had happened in the country the sun had abandoned [i.e., Britain]. The British Sun reported that 'a massive blaze had broken out in a British Vanguard-class nuclear submarine that was on a top secret mission in the Atlantic ocean…' There was speculation that a Russian missile had hit the submarine less than nine minutes after Russia threatened to fire missiles at London in retaliation for Britain's threat to bomb the Nord Stream pipe that carries gas from Russia to Europe.
"This is the Britain that is suffering great economic and political crises in the last months, yet [continues to] bluntly interfere in Egypt's internal affairs, talks arrogantly about rulings of the [Egyptian] judiciary, defends the terrorist 'Alaa 'Abd Al-Fattah, who was punished by the judiciary for terror-related offenses, and demands his release. This criminal has become [a cause] for the dubious international organizations and the international intelligence apparatuses on whose behalf he had acted…"
Egyptian Journalist: European Parliament Ignores Human Rights Violations In Europe But Patronizes Egypt And Interferes In Its Affairs
Egyptian journalist Hassan Al-Rashidi wrote in the Rose al-Youssef weekly: "It is impossible to sacrifice the rights of the overwhelming majority of the people in order to appease a terroristic minority on the pretext of defending human rights. We all remember the remarks made by Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair after the London suicide bombings in 2005. He said that the rules of the game would change and that Britain's security superseded everything else. [We also remember] how European politicians have violated human rights as part of the fight against terror. Terrorist violence in some European countries is nothing new, nor are human rights violations in Europe and America on the pretext of fighting terror, as well as acts of racism and hate against immigrants. Despite this, the European Parliament ignores violations of human rights in European societies, but tries to impose its patronage on Egypt, interfere in its affairs and harm it by means of a statement full of fabrications and lies that disregards the extensive progress that [Egypt] has made and the fact that it has formulated a national strategy on human rights…
"It seems that the European Parliament and the biased organizations that hate Egypt wish to impose their patronage [on it], and insist on demanding to release a criminal [i.e., 'Alaa 'Abd Al-Fattah] on the pretext that he is a political prisoner, in disregard of the Egyptian citizen's right to security and safety…"
Egyptian Columnist: The Europeans Who Preach To Egypt Are "Devils Spreading Civil Strife And Incitement"
Egyptian journalist Khalid Al-Naggar wrote in a similar vein in the Akhbar Al-Yawm daily: "In Europe and the progressive countries they terrorize citizens with dogs, drag them along the ground, beat them with clubs and kick women, and blood flows in the streets. And whenever anyone thinks to express his opinion or protest, there is no consideration for humanity or respect for women's honor… That is the behavior of those who [purport to] defend human rights and have appointed themselves as Egypt's patrons… They have appointed themselves as preachers, when they are [actually] devils who ignore the dirty role they have played in spreading civil strife and incitement. For them, human rights mean [allowing] terrorists [the reference is the Muslim Brotherhood] to launch media platforms, websites and [television] channels to incite and attack Egypt and its symbols… We are familiar with the Western plan and everyone sees through their tricks. They confine human rights to defending perverts [i.e., LGBTQ rights], in defiance of the laws of nature…
"Pay no heed to the hidden hatred, and complete the task by acting and rallying around our devoted leadership, our national army and police, and our wise government. The action taken by the [Egyptian] parliament, Senate and the Parliamentary Bloc of the Coordination Committee of Parties’ Youth leaders and politicians requires [all] the organizations, universities, schools, clubs and places of worship to mobilize and raise awareness of the danger posed be the plots of hostile international entities that are troubled by Egypt's success and by the Egyptians' steadfastness."
 Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), November 12, 2022.
 Bbc.com, December 20, 2021; Arabic.rt.com, November 9, 2022; Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), April 11, 2022.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 20, 2021; Menarights.org, January 5, 2023.
 Several days later his family reported that he had started drinking water again. Apnews.com, November 14, 2022.
 News.un.org, November 8, 2022.
 Voanews.com, Bloomberg.com, November 11, 2022.
 Europarl.europa.eu, November 24, 2022.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), November 9, 2022.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), November 9, 2022.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 26, 2022.
 Salama is hinting at tweets posted by 'Abd Al-Fattah in 2010, 2012 and on other occasions in which he allegedly called to use violence against the Egyptian Army and security forces. Al-Watan (Egypt), November 9, 2022; Tahiamasr.com, November 8, 2022.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 11, 2022.
 The reference is apparently to the burning of several dozen churches in Egypt on August 14, 2013. That day the Egyptian authorities forcibly dispersed a six-week sit-in by the supporters of deposed Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi near the Rabaa Al-'Adawiya Mosque in Cairo. Hundreds were killed in the dispersal of the sit-in.
 This Coptic church was targeted by a suicide bomber on December 11, 2016 during a major prayer service. The attack, which was claimed by ISIS, caused the death of 29 people.
 The mosque, in Sinai, was attacked by gunmen on November 24, 2017, resulting in the death of over 300 people. It should be noted that the UN in fact condemned all these incidents.
 This is from the play "The Death of Cleopatra" by Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi. The full line reads: "The lies influenced him and the falsehood deceived him. What a parrot he is! His brain lies between his ears." Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), November 11, 2022.
 Akhbar Al-Yawm (Egypt), November 16, 2022.
 Rose Al-Youssef (Egypt), November 27, 2022.
 This is an organization of young politicians whose aim is to engage in dialogue with the state institutions and rally around a common national enterprise. Facebook.com/cpyp.egypt, November 26, 2022.
 Akhbar Al-Yawm (Egypt), November 17, 2022.