Egypt parliament's deputy speaker slams US 'meddling' after rights criticism

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 19 Mar 2016

John Kerry on Friday criticised a 'deterioration in the human rights situation' in Egypt

Soliman Wahdan
File Photo: Deputy speaker of Egypt's parliament Soliman Wahdan (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The deputy speaker of Egypt's parliament told reporters on Saturday that a statement issued by the US secretary of state on human rights in Egypt represented another "American intervention in Egypt's internal affairs."

"We are aware that it has become a tradition for American officials to resort to seizing some separate cases, like the current one related to investigating NGOs, as an excuse to issue judgments about the situation of human rights in Egypt in general, and meddle with our internal affairs," said Soliman Wahdan.

Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement on Friday saying he was “deeply concerned” by the deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt, including a decision to reopen an investigation into human rights NGOs.

A judicial committee overseeing a five-year-old investigation into several rights activists accused of receiving illegal funding from foreign sources ordered on Thursday the freezing of assets of four Egyptian human rights activists and their families. They include rights activist Gamal Eid and investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat. 

Wahdan indicated that "the freely elected Egyptian parliament is the only institution legally and constitutionally authorised to review human rights issues, including that of NGOs, and not America."

“What about the human rights of black Americans who are being slaughtered on American streets every day?" asked Wahdan.
"What would Kerry's response be if the Egyptian parliament issued a statement about these violations?"

Wahdan disclosed that "once the new draft law on NGOs operating in Egypt is referred to us, it will be heavily reviewed by Egyptian MPs".

"We care about freedoms and that NGOs play a more active role in boosting development and observing human rights in Egypt, but we do not accept that foreigners, especially American officials, impose their say on us," said Wahdan.

Wahdan, a member of the liberal Wafd Party, also argued that "the Egyptian parliament is strongly in favour of supporting civil society organisations in Egypt.

"But we will support only NGOs which choose to take the right legal path; those who only aim to implement foreign agendas or take human rights as a cover to obtain money from America and the West or practice other non-legal activities will be banned," he said.

Responding to questions about other criticisms levelled at Egypt's human rights record by the European Parliament, Wahdan said a number of Egyptian MPs will visit Brussels in April to respond to attacks in this respect.

"We have a long and strong relationship with the European Union, and we hope that we will settle our differences through dialogue," said Wahdan.

Concerning the tragic death of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo, which some allege is linked to police torture, Wahdan said prosecution authorities are still working on this case.

"While we trust Egyptian prosecution and judicial authorities, I urge MEPs to exercise patience and not to jump to hasty conclusions," said Wahdan, also expressing hope that "this single accident will not in any way negatively impact the deep-rooted relations between Egypt and Italy."

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