Egypt's Sisi 'may use legal powers' in Aya Hegazi case after verdict

Mahmoud Aziz , Thursday 6 Apr 2017

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News, the president spoke about possible intervention in the case of the Egyptian-American prisoner, as well as discussing regional issues and the Trump administration

Sisi fox news
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during an exclusive interview with Fox News Bret Baier on Wednesday (Photo: Youtube)

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told Fox News on Wednesday that he may use his authority in the case of imprisoned Egyptian-American activist Aya Hegazi, once the court has reached a verdict.

Fox News' Bret Baier asked the president if her name had come up in discussions with the US administration.
"We always act with respect for the law and the judiciary," the Egyptian president told Baier, speaking in Arabic.
"I would like to reassure those who are interested in this case, and, by the way, the charge against her is using children in demonstrations, that it is now being looked into in the courts, and as soon as there is a verdict, this will be decided."
"As soon as the courts issue a verdict, we will have an opportunity based on my authority as president to act in a suitable way," he said.
An Egyptian court has set 16 April for a verdict in the case of Hegazi and six other defendants, who are charged with human trafficking, kidnapping, and the sexual exploitation and torture of children.
Hegazi, 29, and her husband Mohamed Hassanein, were arrested in May 2014 over accusations that her NGO Belady Initiative – a foundation which aimed at helping street children in Cairo – was involved in child abuse and was operating without a licence.
Local and international rights groups have criticised the case and complain that the length of time of their detention – almost three years -- is illegal.
Asking about concerns of human rights groups about Egypt's record, El-Sisi said he spoke with some Congressmen and discussed the issue with them, among others.
"We respect our citizens, and we care for them and we fear for them, and I would like to say just as much as you like your citizens, we do too," he told Baier, saying he was responsible for protecting 93 million people.
"We have to maintain a balance between our actions to achieve security, stability and to preserve the state, and on the other hand, human rights."
Trump 'understands region's realities'
Donald Trump has a “true understanding” of the threat of terrorism and realities in the Middle East, El-Sisi told Baier, when asked about changes under the new administration.
Describing him as a "unique personality" El-Sisi said he trusted El-Sisi "wholeheartedly."
El-Sisi met with Trump at the White House this week, in the first formal Washington visit by an Egyptian head of state since Hosni Mubarak met Barack Obama in 2010.
Rhetoric from both sides since Trump's election in November has been warm, in contrast with relations under the administration of Barack Obama, which grew strained after the ouster of Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Trump said this week that he was "very much behind" El-Sisi, who he said has a “great friend and ally in the United States”.
"There is true will, a very strong will, to counter terrorism in the world," El-Sisi told Fox, speaking about the new US administration.
In response to a question about Trump's plan to cut foreign aid to some countries, El-Sisi said that Trump promised to provide Egypt with "very strong support", and he trusts he will keep his promise.
War in Libya, Russia's regional role
Relations with Gulf allies, specifically Saudi Arabia, are "strong," said El-Sisi.
"We are not just friends, we are brothers…and the security of the Gulf area and the whole Arab region is a part of Egypt national security," El-Sisi said.
Regarding the role of Iran in the region, the Egyptian president said that Arab nations are capable of achieving their national security and stability in the face of any threats.
Baier asked about the Libyan crisis, and whether UN peacekeepers should be deployed, or if the US should be doing more.
"We have not used all the resources available. We need to support the national armies existent in the countries facing such turmoil. For more than two years I have been asking to lift the embargo on arming that army, or at least certain aspects of it, to provide them with the necessary equipment to perform that task," he said.
"Let's move forward and assist the national army to take this task and assist them in performing that mission.
"If the Libyans need and accept to have these peacekeeping forces, then we will not hesitate at all to accept our brothers in Libya," he said, affirming that Cairo is willing to provide all support for the Libyan people who are "held captive by armed extremist groups".
The Egyptian president also warned of Libya becoming another stronghold for the Islamic State and other extremist groups to launch attacks against Egypt and even Europe.
Asked by Baier if "the vacuum left by the Obama administration enabled Russia to take a greater foothold" in the region, El-Sisi commented: "In fact, many things over the last four years occurred and caused many, many problems."
"Who brought extremist groups and made them available in Syria? Did the Syrian regime bring them there?" El-Sisi asked.
"The entire region is paying the price [for that], not just Syria."

'True change' in Egypt
On Egyptian efforts to combat terrorism in Sinai, the Egyptian president said there had been "great progress" in the past 40 months.
"But I always say that it takes a long time to get rid of terrorism completely. Confronting and countering terrorism among civilians is a very difficult thing."
In his response to a question about the perception of some Americans that he is an autocrat, El-Sisi stressed his office had term limits.
"The person sitting opposite you has approximately a year, a couple of months more, and his term will be over. A dictator stays thirty or forty years, or even ten years, against the will of the people. That is not the case in Egypt. We don't have any more. We have four years. And if the people accept, maybe four more. And there's no third chance."
"There's true change in Egypt. And the Egyptian people will not accept to have a president against their will," said the president.

Asked what keeps him up at night, El-Sisi replied: "The simple Egyptian person."
Speaking about the difficult economic conditions of the country, El-Sisi said that "there are 93 million citizens in Egypt that I want to protect."
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