Egypt has no political prisoners, Sisi tells France 24

Ahram Online , Tuesday 24 Oct 2017

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi appeared on the news channel on Monday as part of his three-day trip to France, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (Photo Courtesy of France 24)

Egypt has no political prisoners, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told France 24 in an exclusive interview on Monday during his three-day visit to France.

In an interview that is set to be aired on Tuesday, El-Sisi answered allegations made by human rights organizations who claim that Egypt has thousands of political prisoners behind bars.

"There are fair prosecution procedures, within the jurisdiction of the Egyptian law," El-Sisi said. "This is important, and our friends can visit us to inspect Egyptian prisons and meet the prosecutor general, and be informed of all measures that are undertaken."

He said that certain people are detained pending investigations into alleged crimes, but such suspects were treated according to due process.

"A person placed under arrest is one who has been arrested on certain charges that will see them put on trial," the president said. "Either he is acquitted or convicted."

El-Sisi also discussed the "focus of human rights organizations" on Egypt, with the presenter asking whether there was a systematic campaign against the country.

"I have not accused rights groups of anything. They have to be better informed of the Egyptian situation, especially as sometimes information is spread around incorrectly," he said.

However, he said that Egypt is the victim of deliberate external pressure: "There is a systematic campaign against Egypt that we have talked about before."

'Terrorism is a threat to us all'

El-Sisi also discussed terrorism during the interview, saying that it poses a "threat not only to Egypt and Arab states, but to the whole MENA region and Europe."

"We all have to move together, not just Egypt and France, but all the countries of the world should take note, because it is the real challenge for humanity and the security and stability of the whole world," El-Sisi said.

"We have to unite to face this challenge so we can overcome it," El-Sisi said, describing the terrorism threat as a "dangerous one that needs major joint efforts."

The Egyptian president also discussed combating major terrorism operations, such as the terror attack in Egypt's Western Desert last Friday.

El-Sisi said that Egypt was in still in "the first stage of investigations" regarding the attack that left 16 policemen dead following a raid on a terrorist hideout in Bahariya Oasis.

"We do acknowledge that the success in combating terrorism elements in Syria and Iraq will lead to some of them moving to Libya, Egypt and Sinai," El-Sisi said.

He added that steps should be taken to stop such fighters, including the suspension of financing and weapons supplies.

"We have borders with Libya that amount to 1,200 kilometres, and until now and over the past three years, we destroyed more than 1,200 cars carrying weaponry and militants," he said.

El-Sisi said that preventing the flow of terrorists from Libya into Egypt depends on joint efforts to tackle the threat on both sides of the border.

"No one can fully secure 1,200 kilometres of border in desert areas like the Sahara Desert. Not a 100 percent; this is difficult. But there are joint efforts to stop militants and weapons from reaching Libyan territory. We deal with the terrorists in Libya, and then we secure the borders of those countries neighbouring Libya," he said.

Regarding accusations that certain countries were behind Friday's attack, El-Sisi refused to name specific countries.

"I don't name specific countries, but there are countries that fund terrorism by way of money and weaponry, while providing support to fighters through media and political support," El-Sisi said,

He said that such countries should stop supporting terrorism for the sake of global stability.

'Qatar should respond to demands'

El-Sisi also spoke about the nature of the ongoing crisis with Qatar. Last June, four Arab states  –  Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE  –  severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar, accusing the oil-rich Gulf state of supporting terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs. Doha has denied the accusations.

In Monday's interview, El-Sisi was asked whether Doha's support for the banned Muslim Brotherhood group was the real reason behind the boycott of Qatar.

"The 14 demands stipulated by the boycotting Arab countries include this, as well as suspending support to such groups, and the non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries," El-Sisi said.

"We have the right to reject any country interfering in our domestic affairs."

He said that in order for relations to be normalized between Doha, Cairo and the other Gulf countries, Doha should respond to the 14 demands.

"We're not making strange demands. We're just asking to live without other states interfering, or supporting terrorism or extremists through such countries," El-Sisi said.

When asked about French moves to mediate between the boycotting countries and Qatar, El-Sisi stressed that the situation was "between us and them".

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