Egyptian MPs, speaker slam EU parliament's 'interference'

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 12 Mar 2016

The speaker criticised the EU parliament's resolution on rights in Egypt, describing it as exploitation

Ali Abdel-Al
Ali Abdel-Al, speaker of Egypt's parliament (AFP)

The speaker of Egypt's parliament on Saturday criticised a recent resolution by the EU parliament that alleged human rights violations in Egypt, describing the motion as showing a lack of respect for the country's sovereignty.

Ali Abdel-Al, in a meeting with a group of young political leaders, responded to a question about the issue by saying that “we have strong reservations about this resolution which violates the principles of democracy and respect for sovereignty of nations."

The EU resolution, issued on Thursday, posited that the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni' "is not an isolated incident" but occurred within a pattern of "torture, death in custody and enforced disappearances across Egypt in recent years."

It called for the immediate and unconditional release of individuals it said have been unfairly detained and sentenced for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The resolution passed with 588 votes in favour, 10 against and 59 abstentions.

“We all know that the issue of respect of human rights has taken on international dimensions in recent years, but we reject the European Parliament's exploitation of this issue to give itself the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries," said Abdel-Al.

The speaker said he was surprised by the resolution "because I met last month with representatives from the European Parliament and we decided that our relationship would be based on mutual respect and accurate information."

"But now I tell them we reject double standards in dealing with the issue of human rights, and the exploitation of this issue for political reasons," he added.

Abdel-Al, however, said that he feels sorry about the death of the Italian student "but the problem is that most of the information published about this incident is politicised, undocumented and inaccurate."

"I wonder how the European Parliament has given itself the right to base their resolution last Thursday on inaccurate information and jump to hasty conclusions?" said Abdel-Al.

The Egyptian parliament issued a statement rejecting the EU's parliament's resolution on Friday, condemning its “groundless accusations.”

A number of MPs have said that they asked Abdel-Al to hold an extraordinary session to respond to the resolution.

Mostafa Bakri, an MP and media figure, told reporters that the European Parliament's resolution on Giulio Regeni reflects “a high level of arrogance” and double standards, and constitutes incitement against Egypt.

"Let me remind everyone that an Egyptian man was kidnapped in Milan in Italy in 2003, while an Egyptian veiled woman was killed in Germany in 2009, without the Egyptian parliament accusing police authorities there of having a hand or letting the perpetrators commit their crimes," said Bakri.

Bakri and many other MPs also told Abdel-Al that a special session on the Regeni issue is necessary to expose "the Western media's claims and lies about what they call the growing phenomenon of forced disappearances in Egypt."

"We know that most of these claims are propagated by extremist human rights organisations which receive money from the West and we have to hold a hearing session to expose all the lies about this phenomenon," said Bakri.

Other MPs, among them liberal Ahmed Said, told reporters that the reaction to the European Parliament's resolution should be marked by "wisdom and rationality."

"I think it is very necessary to hold a hearing session to respond to the EU parliament's claims and [to show] that Egypt is a state of institutions and that the Egyptian parliament will make a comprehensive and objective review of human rights in Egypt," he said.

He said that “the European Parliament has a lot of MPs from radical liberal political parties like the Green Party in Germany, and all of these take their information from the liberal Western media which paints a very bleak picture of human rights conditions in Egypt."

Said urged Abdel-Al to invite MPs from the European Parliament to visit Egypt to review political and human rights conditions.

"This is far more important than launching counter-attacks that might widen the rift between us and European institutions," said Said.

Abdel-Al told young political leaders on Saturday that he does not expect the problem with the European Parliament to negatively impact Egypt's relations with western Europe.

"As a matter of fact, I have received an invitation from the speaker of the British parliament to visit England, while other European parliaments are also showing interest in fostering relations with us," said Abdel-Al.

Abdel-Al is scheduled to meet President Gjorge Ivanov of Macedonia on Sunday.

"We will hold discussions on how to reinforce relations between Egypt and Macedonia, especially at the parliamentary level," said Abdel-Al.

Egypt's new parliament has received two presidents in the last two months: President Xi Jinping of China, and President Fouad Masoum of Iraq.

The Egyptian parliament also agreed last month to set up three friendship associations with the parliaments of Russia, South Korea and Japan.

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