Detained protesters begin hunger strike; NGOs hold authorities responsible

Saturday 21-05-2016 04:49 PM

Activists protest Sisi's transfer of the Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in front of the Journalists' Syndicate on April 15th, 2016. ASWAT MASRIYA

CAIRO, May 21 (Aswat Masriya) - Egyptian NGOs announced Saturday that they hold authorities responsible for the well-being of 47 detainees who have announced starting open-ended hunger strikes after they received five-year sentences for protesting the transfer of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Qasr al-Nil court of appeals delayed to June 4 looking into the appeals put forth by 33 more Red Sea islands detainees who had been sentenced to two years in prison, with hard labour, on charges of protesting in downtown Cairo on Apr. 25.

Last Saturday, the Qasr al-Nil court handed two-year sentences with hard labour to 52 people, after which a total of 33 of the detainees filed appeals.

An additional 101 people were handed five-year prison sentences.

The  detainees who had received five-year sentences after being arrested on Apr. 25 in Giza and Dokki began their hunger strike on Wednesday, writing in a letter from inside prison that they are protesting "the unjust and oppressive sentence that has been passed against us."  

Local human rights organisations, including the anti-torture El Nadeem Center, the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, the Association for Free Thought and Expression, demanded in a statement that an official file be made to track the prisoners' hunger strike, documenting the day it started, as well as any medical necessities that the detainees may need.

They also demanded that the state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights and the Doctors' Syndicate make visits to the detention facilities to check up on the hunger-striking detainees.

Worldwide solidarity

A Facebook event calling for worldwide solidarity with the detainees has been created. "Show your solidarity by attending the court hearings here or protesting at Egyptian embassies in every city to call for their freedom," the event description reads.

The Apr. 25 protesters are charged with spreading false news, heeding calls for chaos on the basis of rejecting the border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, protesting to incite public opinion against the state, among other charges.

"To our families and loved ones: You give us the power and strength to carry on with your support, so please continue your support untill we're beside you again," the detainees wrote.

According to data from the Front to Defend Egyptian Protesters, an independent group, 1,277 people were "stopped, detained, and arrested" from Apr. 15 to Apr. 27, 2016.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed in central Cairo on Apr. 25 to quell protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's decision to hand over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia. 

Sisi's decision had stirred up controversy among Egyptians, with critics accusing him of “selling Egyptian land” in return for Saudi aid. 

It also prompted thousands of Egyptians to take to the streets in rare protests on Apr. 15 and Apr. 25, amid a police campaign of mass arrests of activists opposed to the agreement. 

Sisi defended the decision, saying in televised speech in April that "Egypt does not sell its land to anyone and it does not take anyone's land."

The cabinet also argued in a statement that the islands are Saudi, adding that Saudi Arabia requested Egypt to protect them in 1950 and they had been under Egypt's control since.

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