A literary and freedom of expression organization based in the United States called on Egypt to release a well-known poet and songwriter who has been on hunger strike to protest his five-year imprisonment.
On Thursday, the American PEN organization called on the Egyptian authorities to release Jalal Al-Behairy, who was arrested for the first time in March 2018 and later sentenced to three years in prison on charges of spreading false news and insulting the Egyptian army.
In a leaked message that coincided with the fifth anniversary of his arrest, Al-Buhairi said that he would refuse food and medicine until he secured his freedom. A government media official did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call for the hunger striker’s release.
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El-Behairy wrote the lyrics to the famous Egyptian pop song “Balaha” sung by exiled pop star Ramy Essam. Al-Shaer was arrested a month after his release.
“I committed one crime, which is poetry,” Al-Buhairi wrote in his message, posted on social media. “The strike will continue until I regain my freedom, alive or not.
This announcement comes a few months after well-known imprisoned dissident Alaa Abdel-Fattah escalated his hunger strike, a measure that overshadowed last November’s global climate summit, which Egypt hosted.
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With the opening of the summit known as COP27, Abdel-Fattah intensified his months-long partial hunger strike to stop all food and water in a bid to draw attention to his and other causes. With fears mounting for his fate, he ended his strike. Abdel Fattah is still in prison.
“Galal’s treatment is symbolic of the Egyptian regime’s disdain for artists and its campaign to suppress artistic freedom and eliminate expression they don’t agree with,” said Justin Shilad, Middle East and North Africa researcher at PEN America.
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the New York City-based organization He also called for the release of all detained Egyptian activists, writers and artists.
The Egyptian government has in recent years imprisoned thousands of people, mostly Islamists, but also secular activists. Many of those behind bars participated in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled the country’s longtime autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak.
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