‘I can tell you it hurts’: Families of Britons detained abroad urge UK government to do more

The families of Britons detained abroad have accused the UK government of “lacking compassion” and “ignoring” them as they called on ministers to do more to release their loved ones.

A group gathered in Westminster on Tuesday to share their stories, while others – such as the daughter of imprisoned geologist Jim Fitton – joined with video messages.

All were calling for Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, to intervene to set their loved ones detained in various countries abroad free.

The sister of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a British father imprisoned in Egypt, told how her brother was suffering as he continued his hunger strike in jail over his conditions.

“My brother is slowly dying in his prison cell but he wants to live. He misses life, he misses his job, he misses his son, and us,” she said.

Mr Abdel-Fattah, a blogger, human rights activist and leading figure in the 2011 Arab spring uprising, has spent most of the past decade behind bars in Egypt.

He is currently more than three years into a sentence that centres around him sharing a blog post critical of prison conditions.

His sister, Sanaa Seif, told a press conference the family wanted Ms Truss to take a greater interest in the dual national’s case.

“We are deeply puzzled by the way we have been treated by the foreign secretary, Liz Truss,” she said.

“Why hasn’t she met with us until now? Why hasn’t she made an official statement about Alaa?”

Ms Seif added: “I can tell you it hurts. Her ignoring us, really.”

Her sentiment was echoed by other friends and families of detained Britons, including that of Mr Fitton, a 66-year-old British father-of-two sentenced to 15 years in prison in Iraq earlier this month.

The retired geologist has been accused of attempting to smuggling artefacts out of Iraq. His family maintain Mr Fitton was unaware he was committing any crime or that the objects – shards of broken pottery and stones – had any value.

“We have been frustrated being our wildest imagination by the complete lack of compassion displayed by junion ministers in our case and the complete lack of engagement by the foreign secretary herself,” his son-in-law, Sam Tasker, said in a video message.

“The foreign secretary has – to our knowledge – never even acknowledged Jim’s existence.”

Jim Fitton has been handed a 15-year sentence in Iraq

Friends of Peter Jouvenal, a former BBC journalist being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, were also among those at the meeting at Portcullis House on Tuesday.

One of them, Rich Parry, said they had “very grave misgivings about the Foreign Office and what they are doing”.

“We have misgivings about the person who assigned to deal with Peter and negotiate with the Taliban, we think he is not really qualified, doesn’t know Afghanistan,” he said.

No charges have yet been brought against father-of-three Mr Jouvenal, who Mr Parry said has had just two phone calls with his wife in the six months since his arrest.

Alaa Abdel Fattah has spent most of the last decade in jail in Egypt

Peter Jouvenal (right) is being held in jail in Afghanistan (Peter Jouvenal/PA)

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