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Cop27: Plight of Egypt’s political prisoners sparks global #FreeThemAll campaign

Widespread global support for Egyptian political prisoners has been flooding social media under the hashtag #FreeThemAll, amid the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or Cop27, being held in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Online users are pictured wearing white clothing, the dress code for prisoners in Egypt, in solidarity with detainees.

The hashtag features in calls for the release of several high-profile prisoners, including the political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, the lawyer and human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer and the blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim.

While it is unclear how many political prisoners exist in Egypt, human rights groups estimate that there are at least 60,000, amounting to about half of the jailed population, many of them accused of “supporting terrorist groups” and “spreading fake news”.

As world leaders gathered for the summit in the Red Sea resort, many members of human rights groups and activists have taken to the streets around the conference area, calling for the release of the prisoners, shouting their names and insisting that there can be no climate justice without establishing human rights.

Authorities and intelligence services control nearly half of Egypt’s popular media, with the rest owned by pro-government businessmen, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Those attending the summit this week found that access to several news and rights group sites were blocked.

Outside of Egypt – from signs calling on the release of prisoners to demonstrations on the streets – there has been plenty of international pressure for the removal of restrictions placed on freedom of speech and press.

Despite Egypt being signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been accused by Human Rights Watch of leading the country’s worst campaign against human justice in its modern history.

Rights groups say security forces have regularly engaged in human rights violations without consequences, while discrimination in Egypt is rampant, especially towards women, LGBT+ people and other vulnerable communities and minorities.

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