The health of detained Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Elshamy is failing rapidly, and he is in critical condition.
Medical tests ordered by the prison last week revealed that Elshamy, who has been on hunger strike for 111 days, is suffering from “anaemia and liver dysfunction,” according to his brother, journalist Mosa’ab Elshamy.
Arrested during the violent clearing of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque on 14 August, Elshamy has been imprisoned since, and is yet to be brought up on formal charges by authorities.
Dr Mohamed Ussama Al Homsi, who reviewed Elshamy’s medical tests, said Elshamy “has started to have impaired liver and kidney function” indicating organ failure, and that he could “die within a few days,” reported Al Jazeera English.
Despite concern for his brother’s failing health, Mosa’ab Elshamy said Abdullah Elshamy “has very good reason” to carry on the hunger strike, and it is “his only option”.
In a 6 May letter from prison, Elshamy said he was questioned by guards on two consecutive days who urged him to give up his hunger strike.
Despite the hardships of prison, where he described life as “standstill until further notice,” Elshamy said he thought the interrogations were a hopeful sign.
“Although I do not know the reasons behind these two incidents, they are indications that victory is imminent,” wrote Elshamy. “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.”
In addition to Elshamy, three journalists working for Al Jazeera’s English network have been detained since being arrested on 29 December. Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed are currently standing trial for spreading false news, and are accused of “creating a terrorist media network”.
The trial has faced repeated delays since it began on 20 February. Their next day in court is scheduled for 15 May.
The arrests and detention of journalists in Egypt has garnered international ire. The US State Department called the charges against the Al Jazeera English journalists “spurious”, while the White House, the European Union, the United Nations and the Australian government have all expressed their unequivocal condemnation, and called for the journalists’ release.
Egypt has experienced an increasingly severe crackdown on voices of dissent. The Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked Egypt the third most dangerous country for journalists after Syria and Iraq. The country ranked 159th out of 180 in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders “Press Freedom Index”.
Al Jazeera has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing by its journalists.