2 prominent activists join detainees in hunger strike

Two well known activists announced their hunger strike on Sunday in solidarity with Abdullah al-Shamy and Mohamed Soltan, both over 100 days into their hunger strike to protest their detention.

Activist and professor Laila Soueif and founder of the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Tortured Victims Aida Seif al-Dawla said in a statement that they are starting a hunger strike in solidarity with both detainees and Shamy’s wife Gehad Khaled, who has been on hunger strike for over 40 days herself.

The activists said their demands echo those relayed by over 150 Egyptian citizens to the National Human Rights Council, calling for the immediate release of Shamy and Soltan and their immediate transfer to hospital for treatment.

The signed demands were sent to the National Human Rights Council on Wednesday May 21, and Soueif and Dawla said they had hoped for a response by Sunday.

Shamy, who works for the Qatari-based Al Jazeera network, was arrested on August 14 during the dispersal of the Rabea pro-Morsi sit in. His detention has been extended several times since and he has never faced trial.

He declared his hunger strike on January 21, demanding trial or release. A global campaign was launched by Al Jazeera for the release of Shamy and the team of Al Jazeera English journalists, who face terrorism charges in the case known as the “Marriott Cell.”

Soltan, son of Muslim Brotherhood leader Salah Soltan, is one of 51 defendants on trial in the “Rabea operations room” case, which includes the group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie.

The defendants are charged with setting up an operations room through which they allegedly instructed members of the group to confront the state and spread chaos following the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins in August last year.

In his court session earlier this month, Soltan was wheeled into court as he read a letter recounting his suffering since his arrest. Soltan said that the police came to his house looking for his father on August 27, 2013, but arrested him and his friends instead when they didn’t find him.

Soltan said he left his job in the US and moved to Egypt in March 2013 to look after his mother who has cancer. He said he has been in Egypt for a year and two months, nine months of which he has spent in jail.

“Two Egyptian citizens are held in the regime’s prisons … they both exhausted all legal means in a state where law is absent,” the activists’ statement read. “The first [Shamy] in defense of his right to practice his profession and the second [Soltan] in defense of his right to be there for his mother during her illness.”

Both activists said the state has turned a deaf ear to the defendants, and that they consequently resorted to “screaming with their bodies and starting a hunger strike that has been ongoing for over 120 days.”


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