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Family of detained Egyptian activist stage UK protest

Veteran Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, pictured at his Cairo home in 2019, is serving a five-year prison sentence
— London (AFP)

Supporters of prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah gathered in London on Tuesday to mark his 200 days on hunger strike, calling on the UK government to do more to secure his release.

A major figure in the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the British citizen was sentenced by a Cairo court in December to five years in prison after he was convicted along with two others of "broadcasting false news".

"I don't feel there have been tangible steps taken to secure my brother's release," said Abdel Fattah's sister Sanaa Seif, 28, who was planning to camp out in front of the Foreign Office in London.

"My brother has been on a perpetual hunger strike in Egypt in Egyptian prison for 200 days now," she told AFP.

"He's really frail, last time my mom saw him he looked like a skeleton."

She called on the UK government to use its economic leverage over Egypt to secure his release.

"I want to be here as a daily reminder for them that Alaa is dying and they can save him. It's not hard. They just need to have the political will to do so," she insisted.

A few dozen supporters attended the protest, some carrying placards with the Amnesty International logo, and another imploring foreign minister James Cleverly to "bring my brother home".

Another sister, Mona Seif continues to draw attention to the plight of what rights groups say are about 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt. She has been collecting letters of support from European lawmakers for months.

Abdel Fattah gained UK citizenship in April from inside prison, through his British-born mother Laila Soueif.

Then foreign secretary, now Prime Minister Liz Truss said in June that Britain was "working very hard to secure his release".

Labour MP David Lammy warned that Abdel Fattah was "losing health, he's losing weight.

"This has now gone on for too long," he told AFP. "Another family in desperate need. And of course, you should not have to resort to a sit-in to draw attention to these issues.

"I urge the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to take notice of what is being said and to do all he can in his auspices as foreign secretary to bring this matter to a successful conclusion," he added.

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