A maverick Egyptian MP, Ilhami Agina, decided on Sunday to resign from parliament's human rights committee in protest at what he called "the repeated attempts of the committee head Anwar El-Sadat to manipulate its MPs to serve the agenda of foreign institutions."
Agina, an independent MP from the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya, told reporters that the decision of El-Sadat and a number of the committee's members to pay a "secret" visit to Geneva to attend a human rights conference has cast doubts about the national loyalty of the committee as a whole.
"The fact that the visit was conducted in a secret way and without getting parliament's approval in advance was by no means a correct move, not to mention that it lends credence to media accusations that Sadat is making use of his position as head of Egypt parliament's human rights committee to obtain money from ill-reputed foreign organisations," said Agina.
Agina also argued the MPs' visit to Geneva, led by El-Sadat, also lacked transparency.
"This was clear in the fact that the complete members of the committee was not informed of the Geneva visit in advance," said Agina, adding that "he knew about the visit only from the media and as a result of this 'secret visit', most of the committee's members now face accusations that they have clandestine relations with foreign organisations."
For the above reasons, Agina said he decided to resign from the committee, preferring instead to join the foreign relations committee. "It is completely unfair for me to remain a member in a committee facing such accusations," said Agina.
"If El-Sadat thinks that the visit was important, why did he decline to inform all the members of the committee of it or get the approval of the speaker in advance?" he added.
The visit of Sadat and nine members to Switzerland to attend a conference organised by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on 10 August has left the 38-member human rights committee divided into two camps.
The first is led by committee head Anwar Mohamed Esmat El-Sadat, a nephew of late president Anwar El-Sadat, and the second is led by its deputy Atef Makhaleef who filed a complaint against the Geneva visit with parliament's speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, asking that El-Sadat be referred to the ethics committee to be disciplined.
Makhaleef told reporters on Sunday that "El-Sadat should be disciplined because of his suspicious links with hostile foreign human rights organisations."
Makhaleef told the private TV channel Al-Ghad on Saturday that "the approval of MPs to travel abroad to attend foreign conferences as representatives of the Egyptian parliament should be strictly regulated."
"If we opened this door wide, it would be like a hell for parliament as a whole," said Makhaleef, adding that "we are MPs to serve national interests rather than foreign agendas."
Makhaleef has also charged that El-Sadat is manipulating the committee to serve the agenda of the US embassy in Egypt on human rights. He said the US embassy contacted him over one month ago in a bid to convince him to join El-Sadat in implementing the US embassy's agenda on human rights.
Sadat told Al-Ghad channel that his visit to Geneva came upon an official invitation and in coordination with Egypt's foreign ministry. "Not to mention that I had already informed parliament speaker Abdel-Aal of the Geneva visit in advance," said El-Sadat.
In a plenary session on 7 August the speaker told MPs that El-Sadat had informed me of the Geneva trip in advance, "but I rejected because I am against invitations from Western human rights forums which are hostile to Egypt," said Abdel-Aal.
El-Sadat told Al-Ghad that his participation in the Geneva conference gave him a chance to change the hostile attitude of some Western organisations towards Egypt in the area of human rights.
"These organisations were listening only to voices from the terrorist organisation of Muslim Brotherhood and our role are to reverse this tide," he said.