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Egypt: Imprisoned poet promises to escalate hunger strike

An imprisoned Egyptian poet has warned that he will escalate his hunger strike tomorrow in protest against his ongoing incarceration.

Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to three years in prison by a military court in 2018 and then in July 2021 further fabricated charges were brought against him.

He has been tortured and kept in inhumane conditions.

El-Behairy began a hunger strike on 5 March and told PEN International earlier this month that he would escalate it on 1 June and refuse to take fluids.

PEN has said they believe El-Behairy is in arbitrary detention because of his writing, which is critical of the Egyptian regime.

Four years after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was voted into power, on 26 February 2018 El-Behairy wrote the lyrics for a song balaha, a derogatory nickname given to the president.

Balaha is a red date and is used to describe people who believe they are wise but are not.

“Oh shiny, browny Mr dates (balaha), four years have finally passed in disgrace,” the lyrics read. “For too long we have been with that dummy face.”

The song, sung by Ramy Essam, has received over 7.3 million hits on YouTube.

Shortly after the song was released, the Culture Minister Enas Abdel Dayem, denounced El-Behairy for a book of poems, ‘The Finest Women on Earth’, which his current charges relate to.

He has been criticised by TV hosts who have smeared him as a foreign spy and called for his Egyptian citizenship to be revoked.

On 3 March that same year, El-Behairy was forcibly disappeared for a week during which time he was beaten and tortured.

The writer is facing an extensive list of charges including being part of a terror group, spreading false news, abusing social media networks, blasphemy, contempt of religion and insulting the military.

Some 60,000 real or perceived government critics are arbitrarily detained in Egypt. Lengthy sentences are handed down after trials which lack basic due process and detainees are systematically tortured.

Last week, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights recorded that over a nine-month period Egyptian courts renewed the pretrial detention of over 20,000 people on terror related charges and released only three.

Egypt is one of the top four executioners worldwide, according to a report by Amnesty International.

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