Amid mounting concern for detained journalist Abdullah Elshamy’s health on the hundredth day of his hunger strike, Al Jazeera has called upon the Egyptian authorities to urgently grant him access to independent medical assistance.
Since embarking on his hunger strike, Elshamy’s weight has collapsed from 108kg to 74g as of 21 April 2014. He has not been examined by a physician during this period, and Egypt does not grant the International Committee of The Red Cross access to detainees.
On Saturday, the Egyptian prosecutor will decide whether to free Elshamy, or extend his detention. As he is a journalist, Al Jazeera has called for his case to be considered separately from the approximately 500 others whose cases are being reviewed at the same time. Concerns are running particularly high given the treatment of mass trials in Egypt recently.
Elshamy began his hunger strike by permitting himself only water, milk, juice without sugar, and two dates per day. After 14 days, he stopped taking dates. By the end of February, at around 38 days, he cut out milk. Since 16 March 2014, he has solely been consuming water.
His wife, Gehad Khaled, is now also on hunger strike. She began on 14 March 2014 and, since the start of her third week, has been only taking water.
She said yesterday, “It is painful: one hundred days. What makes it worse is the refusal of the Egyptian authorities to allow independent doctors to examine Abdullah. I have no idea of his health condition. He has lost an incredible amount of weight and can barely walk; I have no idea what is going on with his organs and nervous system. I decided to join his hunger strike so I can live a very small part of his experience. I now survive solely on water. Many people talk to me about what may be happening to our bodies and what may happen to us in the future, but all this talk doesn’t matter – because so long as our freedom is stolen from us, what is there to fear?”
Born in Egypt but raised in Nigeria, Elshamy works as a West Africa correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic.
Also this Saturday, the three Al Jazeera English detainees – correspondent Peter Greste and producers Baher Mohamed and Mohammed Fahmy – will have their latest trial hearing. Saturday is 3 May 2014, World Press Freedom Day. Al Jazeera says it would be an ideal opportunity for Egypt to free all four men.