The imprisoned Egyptian poet Galal El Behairy declared an open-ended hunger strike in protest of his continued arbitrary detention.
In a leaked letter, El Behairy affirmed that he is engaged in a hunger strike starting from Sunday, demanding his immediate release after five years of arbitrary detention.
Galal El Behairy has been held in detention since March 2018 after penning a song critical of Egypt’s policies, prompting United Nations human rights experts to urge the government to release him immediately.
The song ‘Balaha’, performed by Ramy Essam, went online on 26 February, with the music video quickly going viral and drawing over 3.7 million social media views.
Just five days later, El Behairy was arrested by National Security Police and detained for a week at an undisclosed location, before being charged with affiliating with terrorists, “disseminating false news, abusing social-media networks, blasphemy, contempt of religion and insulting the military” according to a statement released by six UN rights experts.
At the time of that first court appearance, he showed signs of torture and beating. His first trial in Military Court began on 6 May, and after being delayed three times.
The poet’s detention took place against a backdrop of restrictions to artistic and other forms of expression, as well as to the right to participate in the country’s cultural life.