Egypt Watch

Washington “disappointed” by the sentences against human rights defenders in Egypt

The US State Department said that it is disappointed by the sentences handed down to 3 prominent activists in Egypt.

Reuters quoted US State Department spokesperson Ned Price as saying that US officials raised human rights issues with their Egyptian counterparts, and informed Cairo of the possibility of improving relations between the United States and Egypt if progress is made in the field of human rights. Price stated that Washington is disappointed by this ruling, stressing that journalists and human rights defenders should be able to exercise their freedom of expression without facing criminal penalties. The spokesperson added that Washington assured the Egyptian government that improving respect for human rights enhances bilateral relations, and that it will continue dialogue with Cairo to promote freedom of expression and other international human rights. On Monday, an exceptional emergency court in Cairo sentenced political activist and programmer Alaa Abdel-Fattah to 5 years in prison, and lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim, known as “Oxygen,” to 4 years in prison. For its part, Amnesty International stressed that the ruling is a falsification of justice and a reminder of the Egyptian authorities’ brutality against opponents, calling on President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to rescind the sentences and release the activists immediately.

The Egyptian Commission for Human Rights also demanded the release of the three political activists, the annulment of the rulings issued by exceptional emergency courts, and launched a petition addressed to El-Sisi adopting these demands. 10 human rights organizations condemned what they described as the shameful ruling, calling on the Egyptian President to cancel it. It also held the Egyptian authorities responsible for the activists’ lives and their mental and physical health.

The organizations considered that this ruling, which proves the continuation of the Egyptian government’s hostile policies, confirms what it has previously indicated regarding the farcical announcement of a human rights strategy, which claims the independence of the judiciary and the observance of human rights in Egypt. They also pointed out the absurdity of declaring the lifting of the state of emergency – which is still ongoing with other repressive laws. The Revolutionary Socialists movement described the sanctions retaliatory.

It is noteworthy that the German Foreign Ministry had demanded, two days before the ruling, the release of the activists, and stressed that lawyers should not be punished for practicing their professional activities. It also expressed its hope that Egypt would work to achieve a fair trial. In response, Egypt accused the German government of blatant and unjustified interference in internal affairs, and of prejudging a judicial course without objective evidence or support.