Hunger striking journalist’s appeal rejected
A view of the construction site from one of the surrounding buildings - Photograph: Lina Attalah

Detained journalist Abdullah al-Shamy’s appeal was rejected on Thursday. He has been on a hunger strike for 115 days.

Shamy, a journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic, has been imprisoned since his arrest in August last year when he was covering the brutal dispersal of a pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-in at Rabea al-Adaweya, where at least 1,000 people were killed. He is being held without charge and has been on hunger strike since January 21. The human rights organization Amnesty International described Shamy’s detention as “groundless.”

The journalist has been held in solitary confinement over the past few days in Al-Aqrab (Scorpion) maximum security sector in Tora prison. His family and lawyers were only recently informed of his location after being unable to contact him since the beginning of the week.

Footage shot shortly before Shamy’s solitary confinement shows him to be in poor health. 

Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday calling on Egyptian authorities to release Shamy.

“By placing a hunger-striker in solitary confinement, instead of transferring him to a hospital or allowing him to see a doctor, the Egyptian authorities are deliberately putting his life and health at risk,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraroui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program for Amnesty International.

One of Shamy’s brothers, award-winning photographer Mosaab al-Shamy, described the recent developments as a “nightmare, which continue to develop by the second,” in a note published on his Facebook page Thursday.

Following the publication of photos that showed the drastic deterioration of Shamy’s health, on May 5 an official from the Prison Authority met with the journalist to pressure him to end his hunger strike.

Shamy describes the meeting in a letter, in which he says that the official promised to refer his case to court, “as if that had not been done already,” if he ended his hunger strike. His letter describes prison as a “big tragedy in which the lives of people are brought to a standstill until further notice.”

The basis of any democracy is a free press, Shamy wrote.

His family sent a blood sample to a private laboratory, and the results show severe anaemia, very low blood sugar and signs of kidney failure.

On Monday morning, security entered the prison cell where Shamy was being held with other prisoners and started rummaging through the detainees’ belongings. They found a phone, used to communicate with families. Security claimed that the phone belonged to Shamy and proceeded to remove him.

Shamy’s fellow detainees refused to allow his transfer to the notorious Aqrab prison given his poor health. In the end, they let him go after assurances were given that Shamy would be taken to the prison hospital and that one of them could accompany him.

“Of course, none of that happened,” Mosaab wrote in his Facebook statement.

After unsuccessfully submitting official requests to identify Shamy’s whereabouts, his wife, also on a solidarity hunger strike, and mother were able to locate him in Aqrab prison. Mosaab wrote that they found out that Shamy was moved because his hunger strike “has become a headache,” and the discovery that he possessed a telephone was only a pretext to transfer him.

According to Amnesty International, after his transfer to Aqrab Shamy “spent three continuous days in his cell without security officials checking on him once.” 

Mosaab accuses the Interior Ministry of contradicting its own lies. On the one hand, it denies that Shamy is on a hunger strike, suggesting that he eats food brought to him by others, while on the other it pressures him to end his strike. Mosaab excoriated the prison authorities for not only ignoring his brother’s deteriorating health, but also for punishing him for it.

Three Al Jazeera English journalists facing trial in a separate case were denied bail in their latest court hearing on Thursday. 


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