This story is over 5 years old.


The Reporter on Hunger Strike in an Egyptian Prison Might Slip Into a Coma

Abdullah Elshamy is suffering from the beginnings of kidney failure, anaemia, low blood pressure, and blood glucose deficiency.
Portrait by ?Molly Crabapple

Abdullah Elshamy, the Al Jazeera reporter who has lost a third of his body weight while on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison, is in danger of organ failure and slipping into a coma, and might die if he does not receive immediate medical help.

Elshamy's brother Mosaab told AFP today that Abdullah's health was critical, and that he was suffering from the beginnings of kidney failure, anaemia, low blood pressure, and blood glucose deficiency, and was in danger of slipping into a coma as a result.


"He can go into a coma if he doesn't take perfusions and if his blood sugar remains low… it is the start of the most dangerous period," he said.

Mosaab added that Elshamy had been drinking sugary beverages at the beginning of his hunger strike, but has had nothing but water for the past month.

Al Jazeera's $150M Suit Against Egypt Could Jeopardize Its Journalist's Trial. Read more here.

Elshamy has been held without trial since August 2013, and has been on hunger strike since mid-January.

Doctor Mohamed Ussama Al Homsi, who reviewed the results of blood tests conducted on Elshamy on May 8, told Al Jazeera that the journalist's organs were in danger of failure and Elshamy could "die within a few days." Elshamy's lawyer Shaaban Saeed echoed the comments, and on Sunday asked for him to be transferred to the hospital.

Elshamy was arrested on August 14 when security forces dispersed two protest camps where supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi had gathered, killing hundreds.

Elshamy’s whereabouts are currently unknown after he was moved from his prison cell to an unknown location. He last appeared in court on May 3, and was held for another 45 days. He told reporters there that he hasn’t had access to a lawyer, and was sharing a 130 square foot cell with 14 others.

On May 6, he sent a letter from prison describing how authorities had tried to persuade him to eat, and urging European Union (EU) High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton to take a "courageous stand" in supporting freedom of the press in Egypt. The EU plans to monitor Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections this month.


Al Jazeera’s Abdullah Elshamy could ‘die within a few days,’ by — Steffen Konrath (@StKonrath)May 12, 2014

Three of Elshamy’s Al Jazeera colleagues are also currently behind bars. Reporter Peter Greste, an Australian national, Al Jazeera English's Canadian-Egyptian Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, a local producer, have been held since December 2013. The three have been accused of doctoring film footage, besmirching Egypt’s reputation, and aiding a terrorist organization — which the Brotherhood was declared on Christmas day in 2013.

An Egyptian administrative court banned Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel Mubasher Misr, along with three other channels, on September 3, 2013, on the grounds that they supported Morsi and the Brotherhood. The Qatar-based network has also complained that its broadcasts have been jammed, its offices repeatedly raided, and its staff detained since Morsi was removed from power.

The arrests have been condemned by rights groups and have sparked a worldwide campaign. Nevertheless, many Egyptians see Al Jazeera as having worked to undermine their country, which is partly a result of the perception that Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood. The tiny Gulf state has supported Islamists throughout the Middle East, and funneled billions of dollars into Egypt's ailing economy while Morsi was in power. Since his ouster, Al Jazeera — particularly its Egyptian arm — has been widely accused of attempting to show the military-backed government in a bad light.

Egypt's President-In-Waiting Kicks Off Campaign with Hardline Vows. Read more here.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck

Portrait by Molly Crabapple