Hunger-striking Al Jazeera journalist now feared to be days from death - Press Gazette

Hunger-striking Al Jazeera journalist now feared to be days from death

Detained Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Elshamy is said to have been transferred from his prison cell to an undisclosed location amid fears he could die "within a few days".

Elshamy (pictured: Al Jazeera) has been on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison for 113 days.

His lawyer, Shaaban Saeed, yesterday asked the authorities to move him within 48 hours to a hospital, Al Jazeera said. He warned that without immediate care he could die.

Elshamy has now been imprisoned for more than 38 weeks and has lost a third of his body weight during his hunger strike.

The doctor reviewing his test results told Al Jazeera: “He has started to have impaired liver and kidney function… All of these can cause big problems for him. This means that his organs are in danger."

Elshamy has been detained in Tora prison, Cairo, after being arrested last August while reporting on a police raid on a sit-in in support of the country's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

Three more Al Jazeera journalists – Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed – have been held in the Tora prison for 135 days.

A Times editorial today called for Elshamy's release along with his fellow Al Jazeera journalists.

It said: “The imprisonment of the journalists shows how the law has been corrupted. There is nothing in the way of evidence, and it seems quite likely that the arrests were the result of a misunderstanding.

“Seven court hearings against three of the journalists have produced absolutely nothing to substantiate the charges…

It added: “The Egyptian courts and government need to free the journalists before they become a symbol of a counter-revolution gone wrong. The administration cannot simply assert that it is less extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood after its tainted period in power. It has to prove it.”

Last month Al Jazeera filed a legal action against the state of Egypt. Lawyers for the Qatari-owned broadcaster told the government in Cairo that they would be seeking $150m (nearly £90m) in compensation after the broadcasters operations were shut down in the country.

Last week, Elshamy wrote from his prison cell about his hunger strike and predicted that "victory is imminent". He said: "I believe that I am walking a path that will make the future better than the past. I am a story being written…it will be a happy one indeed.

Here is an extract:

On Tuesday night, May 5th, while I was spending my birthday sleeping, two prison guards came to my cell and asked me to accompany them to meet the officer in-charge at nine o'clock.

This was rather strange but later I found out that the prison authorities had received a message from the Minister's Assistant for Prison Affairs, inquiring about my health situation.

This was followed by a visit by the same person in the morning of Wednesday, 6th May.

There was apparent confusion.  He was trying to convince me to put an end to my hunger strike, saying that it was " a sin " one time , or that " Egypt needed me " another time.  So I replied: "Egypt needs me to be in prison?".

He continued talking about the importance of looking after my health, trying to be friendly by saying he would refer my case to the prosecutor and to the court as if that had not been done already.

The conversation lasted for half an hour, and then I ended it by saying: "You know and I know that my detention is to no avail, these are nothing more than arbitrary and groundless decisions."

So he turned to the prison officers and said: "Place him under constant surveillance and examination".

Although I do not know the reasons behind these two incidents, they are indications that victory is imminent. I may not have thought that things would come to a point of stubborn defiance between one individual and an entire regime which is afraid of him and are doing all they can to dissuade him.



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