Egyptian prison authorities have intervened medically days after jailed British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah escalated his hunger strike, his mother said.
The nature of the intervention is not known but Mr Abd El-Fattah’s family have expressed fears prison officials will force-feed the activist.
The family say this would amount to torture.
Mr Abd El-Fattah, 40, was sentenced to five years in prison in Egypt in December last year after being charged with spreading fake news.
The activist was charged over a Facebook post he shared about human rights abuses in Egyptian prisons in 2019.
His imprisonment has become a symbol of a return to autocracy in Egypt.
Mr Abd El-Fattah’s mother Leila Soueif, said she spoke to prison authorities by phone and asked them if her son was undergoing any medical procedure and they said he was.
She told the Associated Press news agency she asked “if it was by force, and they said no” and told her “Alaa is good”.
Mr Abd El-Fattah had been on a partial hunger strike of 100 calories a day for the past six months.
He stopped all calorie intake and began refusing water on Sunday – the first day of the COP27 climate summit held in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
His hope was to get the attention of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who attended the UN-led summit this week, and persuade him to take immediate action for his release.
Mr Abd El-Fattah is now in a prison hospital following the escalation in his hunger strike.
The activist said in an earlier letter that he was prepared to die in prison if not freed.
Ms Soueif has called for her son to be transferred to a civilian hospital rather than a prison facility.
“I need proof for this. I don’t trust them,” she said.
She has been waiting outside the prison every day this week, asking for proof her son is alive.
Mr Abd El-Fattah’s sister Mona Seif has said she has now been informed by prison officials that he is undergoing “medical intervention”.
The activist’s family have been increasingly worried for his health and continuously campaigned for his release ahead of COP27.
They also organised a sit-in outside the UK Foreign Office.
Mona Seif (left), the sister of writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, outside the Foreign Office in October
Mr Abd El-Fattah’s younger sister Sanaa Seif said last week in a public address to world leaders at COP27: “You are going to be in the same land as a British citizen dying.
“And if you don’t show that you care, it will be interpreted as a green light to kill him. My brother can be saved.”
“If you don’t save him, you have blood on your hands.”
Mr Abd El-Fattah rose to prominence during the pro-democracy uprisings in 2011 which took place throughout the Middle East and played a role in dismounting Egypt’s long-time president Hosni Mubarak.
World leaders and activists have repeatedly called for Egyptian authorities to release him.
At COP27, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised the activist’s case in their talks with Mr el-Sissi.
Celebrities who have spoken out in support of Mr Abd El-Fattah include Dame Judi Dench, Dame Emma Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Carey Mulligan and Khalid Abdalla.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg even refused to join the COP27 because she disagreed with the country’s human rights abuses.
The environmentalist was seen pictured at a protest in solidarity of Mr Abd El-Fattah
Lifting of Lockdowns in Major Chinese Cities Signals Shift in COVID Stance
Major Chinese cities have started to lift COVID lockdowns and ease restrictions following widespread protests over stringent zero-COVID policies.
Less than 24 hours after violent protests in Guangzhou, officials in at least seven districts of the sprawling port city north of Hong Kong announced they were lifting lockdowns.
One district on Wednesday said it would allow in-person classes in schools to resume and would reopen restaurants and other businesses including cinemas.
Authorities in the southwestern city of Chongqing said they would now allow close contacts of people with COVID-19, who meet certain conditions, to quarantine at home.
The “orderly” resumption of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants was announced in Zhengzhou in central China, where there have been clashes at a huge Foxconn factory making iPhones, and an exodus of workers from the site frustrated by COVID curbs.
People with mild coronavirus symptoms in east Beijing are now being allowed to self-isolate at home, according to new rules issued by community leaders.
Another nearby neighbourhood is holding an online poll this week on the possibility of positive cases isolating at home.
“I certainly welcome the decision by our residential community to run this vote regardless of the outcome,” said resident Tom Simpson, managing director for China at the China-Britain Business Council.
He said his main concern was being forced to go into a quarantine facility, where “conditions can be grim to say the least”.
Police clash with protesters in China
The softening stance follows quarantine protocols earlier in the year which saw entire communities locked down, sometimes for weeks, after even just one positive case was found.
National health officials said earlier in the week that China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that COVID rules should be implemented more flexibly, according to the severity of outbreaks in each region.
Despite near-record case numbers, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said on Wednesday the virus’s ability to cause disease was weakening, state media reported.
She also urged further “optimisation” of testing, treatment and quarantine policies.
It contrasts with earlier messages from authorities about the deadliness of the virus.
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Although the easing of some measures appears to be an attempt to appease the public, authorities have also started to seek out protesters, some who were at the Beijing protests told Reuters news agency.
“Police came to my front door to ask me about it all and get me to complete a written record,” a resident, who did not want to be identified, said.
Another said some friends who posted videos of protests on social media were taken to a police station and asked to sign a pledge they “would not do that again”.
Saudi Arabia Wants Its Investors to Own Manchester United and Liverpool
Saudi Arabia says it wants its investors to take over Manchester United and Liverpool – and hopes Cristiano Ronaldo comes to play in its domestic league.
Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.
It is the availability of United – after the Glazers announced plans for a potential sale – and Ronaldo that is interesting Prince Abdulaziz.
‘Islamophobic’ if forced to sell alcohol
He would be keen on Ronaldo signing for a Saudi Pro League after the World Cup, with the 37-year-old a free agent following a fraught departure this week from United.
“Who wouldn’t want him to play in their league?” Prince Abdulaziz told Sky News. “He’s a role model to a lot of young players – him and Messi.”
The vision would see the Saudi league featuring both Ronaldo and Messi, who is still signed to Paris Saint-Germain but is already signed up to promote Saudi Arabia.
“That’s benefited a lot in terms of tourism for the kingdom,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “If they can, I’d love to see them both play in the Saudi league.”
Newcastle was bought by the Saudis last year through the Public Investment Fund, which the Premier League claims is not controlled by the government despite being headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo
Now two other Premier League clubs are on the market – Liverpool and United – and the sports minister wants either – or both – to fall under Saudi ownership.
“I hope so, if there are investors and the numbers add up, and it makes a good business,” he said. “Then the private sector could come in, or companies could come in, from the kingdom.”
He added: “The Premier League is the best league in the world. Everyone’s watching the Premier League. It’s the most watched league and there are diehard fans of these teams in the kingdom. So it would be a benefit for everyone.”
“I can say that we have a strong league. It’s not one of the strongest in Asia. You know, we’re building towards a better future. And we see how the future holds up for that.”
He continued: “And you know, I heard about these speculations in the news, as everyone else. I don’t have any details about any of the reports that have been coming out. But you know, what I can say is that we have Messi as an ambassador for tourism in the kingdom with the ministry of tourism – and that’s benefited a lot.”
He went on: “In terms of tourism for the kingdom, if they can, I’d love to see them both play in the Saudi League, and, you know, if top players come into the Saudi League and play that will reinforce the programmes that we’re doing.
“It will showcase that, you know, the league is stronger to showcase that there’s potential for the youth to admire for the future.”
Biden and Zelenskyy at Odds Over Origin of Missile That Killed Two in Poland
US President Joe Biden has disputed Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s assertions that a missile that landed in Poland and killed two people was not of Ukrainian origin.
Ukraine’s president said on Wednesday he had “no doubt” the missile “was not Ukrainian” and called for his officials to have access to the site of the blast.
Mr Biden has said the trajectory suggested the missile was unlikely to have come from Russia and, when asked on Thursday about Mr Zelenskyy’s comments on the issue, he told reporters: “That’s not the evidence.”
‘Unlikely missile was fired from Russia’
The missile hit a grain silo on a farm in Przewodow – around four miles from Poland’s border with Ukraine.
The blast sparked an international outcry amid the possibility it represented a Russian assault on NATO territory, after the Polish ministry of foreign affairs described the missile as “Russian-made”.
However, Moscow insists it did not fire the missile, with Russia’s defence ministry denying Russian involvement, saying: “No strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border were made by Russian means of destruction.”
It claimed images of the site showed the wreckage to be that of a Ukrainian S-300 missile.
Three US officials have said preliminary assessments suggest the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian one.
Ukraine maintains stocks of Soviet and Russian-made weaponry, including air-defence missiles, and has also seized many more Russian weapons while beating back the Kremlin’s forces during the conflict – now in its ninth month.
The missile blast in Poland had sparked worried talk of NATO’s Article 5, which means an attack on a member country is seen as an attack on all allies.
How did Poland missile strike play out?
‘This is not Ukraine’s fault’
But Polish President Andrzej Duda has said his country is “very likely” to instead invoke Article 4, which allows a member country to raise a security issue and have it discussed.
“From the information that we and our allies have, it was an S-300 rocket made in the Soviet Union, an old rocket and there is no evidence that it was launched by the Russian side,” he said.
“It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence to protect Ukrainian territory.”
NATO ambassadors have held emergency talks in response to the war’s first deadly extension into the territory of the Western alliance.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has also spoken about Tuesday’s incident and said whatever the outcome of the investigation into the blast, Russia “bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine”.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault,” he said.
Other key developmentso Investigators in Ukraine’s southern port city of Kherson have found 63 bodies with signs of torture, the country’s interior minister is quoted as saying by the Interfax Ukraine news agencyo Explosions are being reported in the northern Crimean town of Dzhankoi, according to Belarusian news outlet Nextao The Czech Republic plans to train up to 4,000 Ukrainian troops in 2023, the country’s defence minister sayso The International Paralympic Committee votes to suspend Russia at its general assembly in Berlin
Poland missile ‘not Ukraine’s fault’
Russian missile strikes target energy and infrastructure
The incident occurred during what Ukraine has described as the biggest wave of Russian missile strikes on its territory since the start of Russia’s invasion in February.
According to UK intelligence, Russia carried out up to 80 long-range missile strikes – mostly against power infrastructure targets – on Tuesday.
“This is likely the largest number of strikes that Russia has conducted in a single day since the first week of the invasion,” said the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
As Russian forces continue to attack Ukraine’s national infrastructure, this is “drawing deeply upon Russia’s reserves of conventional cruise missiles”, it added in its latest update on the situation on the ground.
It came as fresh Russian missile strikes on Thursday targeted critical infrastructure including gas production facilities and a missile plant, the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal as saying.
Air raid warnings were issued as explosions were heard in several parts of the country, including the southern port city of Odesa, the capital Kyiv and the central city of Dnipro – home to the huge Pivdenmash missile factory.
There were further reports that the southern port city of Odesa was also struck by missiles.
Oleksiy Chernyshov, chief executive of state energy company Natogaz, said Russia had carried out a “massive attack” on the infrastructure of gas producer Ukrgazvydobuvannia in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin wants to deprive millions of people of electricity and heating, amid freezing temperatures. Send Ukraine more air and missile defence systems to avert this tragedy. Delays cost lives.”
Black Sea grain deal extended
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the extension of an international deal to ensure the safe delivery of exports of grain, foodstuffs, and fertilisers from Ukraine through the Black Sea.
July’s Turkey and UN-brokered grain export deal ensured safe passage in and out of Odesa and two other Ukrainian ports, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne, and was set to expire on Saturday.
It followed a blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which cut off supplies to grain and other food products around the world and sent global prices soaring.
Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain producers, and the four-month-old programme averted a global food crisis.
Mr Zelenskyy said earlier that he expected the renewal for at least 120 days, calling it a “key decision in the global fight against the food crisis”.
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