Thunberg calls on Egypt to release political prisoners during climate summit

Climate activist Greta Thunberg criticized the Egyptian government’s human rights record and called for the release of British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah on the third day of the UN climate summit COP27 hosted in Egypt.

“During COP27, we call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those being held solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights and to implement the criteria set by local NGOs for these releases: fairness, transparency, inclusivity and urgency,” like Thunberg wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “A system that doesn’t address the needs of climate justice and human rights is a system that has failed everyone – we need to keep an eye on both.”

Thunberg specifically pointed to the case of El-Fattah, a software developer and activist who was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to five years in prison for spreading “false news intended to undermine national security.” His detention has been widely condemned by international human rights groups and he has been on hunger strike for almost seven months.

Activists and human rights organizations have accused the nation of using the COP27 presidency as a means of washing its human rights record. Earlier this week, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) chaired a letter urging President Biden to engage Egyptian officials on the issue during the conference.

“We are…deeply disturbed by the message she is sending to the world that the Egyptian government is hosting COP27 while jailing tens of thousands of political prisoners – including many environmental activists,” they wrote. Just last week, security forces arrested Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal halfway on a march from Cairo to Sharm-el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort town where the summit was taking place.

Thunberg referred to a petition by 12 Egyptian human rights organizations demanding the immediate release of political prisoners.

“Tackling the environmental crises cannot be used to whitewash the reputation of one of the world’s worst human rights abusers,” said Yasmin Omar, manager of the United Nations and regional mechanisms at the Judiciary Committee, in a statement. “The solidarity of the world with our demands has created a unique momentum to put human rights at the center of important discussions during COP27 and urge Egypt to take concrete steps to release detainees and open the civil society space.”

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