Defendants stand in the accused cells during the trial of 20 individuals, including Al-Jazeera journalists, for allegedly defaming the country and ties to the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood on May 3, 2014 in Cairo
Defendants stand in the accused cells during the trial of 20 individuals, including Al-Jazeera journalists, for allegedly defaming the country and ties to the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood on May 3, 2014 in Cairo © Mohamed el-Shahed - AFP/File
Defendants stand in the accused cells during the trial of 20 individuals, including Al-Jazeera journalists, for allegedly defaming the country and ties to the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood on May 3, 2014 in Cairo
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AFP
Last updated: May 13, 2014

Jailed journalist on hunger strike in Egypt in critical health

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An Al-Jazeera journalist held in Egypt since August is in "critical" health and could slip into a coma after more than 100 days on hunger strike, his brother said Tuesday.

Abdullah Elshamy was arrested August 14 when police dispersed supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, which led to clashes in which hundreds were killed.

Elshamy, who works for the Qatar-based network, went on hunger strike in January to protest his detention and has yet to face trial.

He is suffering from "anaemia, the start of kidney failure, low blood pressure and hypoglycaemia," a brother, Mosaab, told AFP.

"He is at a critical stage and needs to be transferred to hospital," Mosaab said, providing AFP with a copy of a blood test on his brother from last week.

At the start of his hunger strike Elshamy drank juice and other sugary drinks but has been taking only water for the past month, his brother said.

And he has shed around 40 kilogrammes (88 pounds) over the past 112 days, he added.

"He can go into a coma if he doesn't take perfusions (drips) and if his blood sugar remains low... It is the start of the most dangerous period," he added.

Mosaab added that his brother had been recently moved from his prison cell to an unknown location. "Surely he is still in jail but we don't know where and we cannot communicate with him."

Elshamy's lawyer, Shaaban Saeed, told AFP he was accused of joining a "terrorist group" and spreading false news.

"My client is paying the price for working for a channel that opposes the ruling regime," Saeed said.

The military-installed authorities have been incensed by Al-Jazeera's coverage of their crackdown on Morsi's supporters since July when the army ousted him.

On May 3, a court remanded Elshamy into custody for another 45 days, and Elshamy appeared in court looking gaunt.

"I haven't seen my lawyer. We are 15 people in a cell of 12 square metres (130 square feet)," he told reporters from the dock.

His wife Jihad Khaled, meanwhile, was also on hunger strike, her mother Houda Abdelmoneim told AFP.

"Jihad began her hunger strike from March 14 to express solidarity with her husband," Abdelmoneim said, adding that her daughter fell unconscious on Monday and was taken to a hospital as she too had been taking "only water."

Three other Al-Jazeera journalists, who work for the network's English-language channel, are held in Egypt and on trial for defamation and supporting Morsi's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

Their trial of Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and 17 other co-defendants, has sparked an international outcry.

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