Today marks Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan’s 411th day on hunger strike. Just two days ago, on March 9, in the Cairo Criminal courtroom, sat Soltan in a wheelchair, microphone in one hand and a two-page written speech in the other, addressing the court regarding the “Rabaa Operations Room” trial.
Upon request from his lawyers, Soltan was “allowed to address the court from outside the soundproof cage where defendants are kept during their ‘hearings’” according to the Free Soltan Facebook page.
The back of Soltan’s wheelchair read “#UNBREAKABLE,” as he firmly held on to the microphone, delivering a firm statement in which he discussed the importance of freedom, details regarding his arrest and conditions of imprisonment and the reason he has been on hunger strike for over 400 days despite his deteriorated medical state.
With his father’s, Salah Soltan, arm on his shoulder, Mohamed Soltan began his statement.
“I do not have any ideological, partisan, group, or sport affiliations…I reassure you, if I had any affiliations I would have announced it and held on to it with pride regardless of circumstances,” Soltan said in his statement, adding that he would like to speak for seven minutes.
As Soltan’s father, also detained for Muslim Brotherhood affiliation, pulled out tissues to wipe tears from his eyes, grim Judge Nagy Shehata interrupted Soltan’s statement multiple times, saying: “What do you want, Mohamed?” “Who said you have seven minutes” and “Enough stories.”
“I’m on hunger strike because I cannot be silent when my right for freedom is taken away. Freedom for me is first before anything in life…Freedom is the solution for stability, and not the opposite,” Soltan continued. “We are inside a cage, inside another cage, inside another. We cannot talk to our lawyers.”
Although given the option of renouncing his Egyptian citizenship on the basis of a decree, issued by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that would allow for the repatriation of foreign prisoners in Egypt, Soltan addressed in his statement:
“I cannot be made to choose between my nationality and my freedom.”
Shehata then interrupted Soltan mid-speech, placed the court in recess and left, postponing Soltan’s trial to March 16. To this date, Soltan’s trial has been postponed more than 25 times.
Soltan’s strength and courage to give this statement comes after his previous hearing, where he was wheeled out to the courtroom on a stretcher during his previous trial, given a string of health complications, including seizures and falling in and out of hypoglycemic comas.