Egypt's interior ministry has denied that human rights barrister Amal Clooney is banned from entering the country, two days after the British-Lebanese lawyer claimed she was threatened with arrest by Egyptian authorities.
The threat came in response to a report Clooney co-authored for the International Bar Association which identifies flaws in the country's judicial system and questions its independence, she told the Guardian newspaper in an interview published Friday.
Clooney is among lawyers representing one of a trio of Al-Jazeera journalists currently in custody in Cairo.
"When I went to launch the report, first of all they stopped us from doing it in Cairo,” Clooney told the Guardian. “They said: ‘Does the report criticise the army, the judiciary, or the government?’ We said: ‘Well, yes.’ They said: ‘Well then, you’re risking arrest.’
State news agency MENA on Sunday quoted the interior ministry as saying that local media reports about banning Clooney from entering Egypt were "totally baseless," adding there was nothing preventing her from entering the country "whenever she wants."
On Thursday, Egypt's top court ordered a retrial of Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, who have been detained since December 2013 over charges of spreading false news and aiding the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group—allegations they deny.
The reporters, who were sentenced in June to seven to years in jail, remain in detention.
Two of the three reporters, Fahmy, whom Clooney represents, and Greste are seeking deportation under the terms of a November presidential decree that allows foreign convicts to be sent to their countries to be tried there or serve their sentences.
Clooney's February 2014 report warned about the wide powers that ministers had over judges and highlighted government control over state prosecutions.
Among recommendations the report presented was to end the practice that allows Egyptian officials to handpick judges in certain politicised cases.
"That recommendation wasn't followed, and we've seen the results of that in this particular case where you had a handpicked panel led by a judge who is known for dispensing brutal verdicts. And this one was no different," she said.
"I don't see how the prosecution can proceed again in a trial process even if the judges were to be constituted properly this time around. I don't see how they could fix the lack of evidence," she said.