An American free speech and literary organization has called on Egypt to release a famous poet and songwriter who is on hunger strike in protest against his five-year prison sentence.
PEN America on Thursday demanded that Egyptian authorities release Galal al-Behairy, who was first detained in March 2018 and later sentenced to three years for spreading false news and insulting the Egyptian military was narrated.
In a leaked letter marking the fifth anniversary of his arrest, al-Bayhairi stated that he would refuse food and medicine until he regained his freedom. An Egyptian government media official did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call to release the hunger striker.
Egypt’s most prominent imprisoned activist begins ‘full hunger strike’
Al-Behairy wrote the lyrics for the hit Egyptian pop song “Balaha”, which was sung by exiled pop star Remy Essam. A month after its release, the poet was arrested.
“I have committed a crime, which is poetry,” Al-Behairi wrote in his letter published on social media. “The strike will continue till I get my freedom, alive or not.”
The announcement comes months after jailed well-known dissident Alaa Abdel-Fattah stepped up his hunger strike, an action that overshadowed last November’s world climate summit hosted by Egypt.
Egyptian prison officials perform medical intervention after jailed activist extends hunger strike
After the summit, known as COP27, opened, Abdel-Fattah intensified his months-long partial hunger strike, stopping all food and water in an effort to draw attention to his case and that of others. As concern for their fate grew, they called off their strike. Abdel-Fattah is in prison.
“Galal’s behavior is emblematic of the Egyptian regime’s disdain for artists and a campaign to crack down on artistic freedom and stifle expression,” said Justin Shilad, Middle East and North Africa researcher with PEN America.
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The New York City-based organization also called for the release of all other detained Egyptian activists, writers and artists.
The Egyptian government has imprisoned thousands of people in recent years, mainly Islamists, but also secular activists. Many of those behind bars were involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that overthrew the country’s longtime autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak.
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