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Egyptian MP resigns parliament's rights body over foreign trip row

Ilhami Agina accuses committee head Anwar El-Sadat of trying to ‎'manipulate MPs to serve foreign agenda‎s'

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 21 Aug 2016
Ilhami Agina
Screenshot of Egyptian MP Ilhami ‎Agina during a TV interview
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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.‎

Geneva conference 

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.‎
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