The Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo (File photo: Reuters)
Egypt's foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of three western countries on Sunday to protest their recent statement criticisizing the detention of an Egyptian rights lawyer and calling for the respect of civil society groups, saying their statement on the issues was "unacceptable and a blatant interference in domestic affairs".
Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said the envoys of Germany, Italy and Holland were summoned by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ihab Nasr, with the ambassadors of the UK and Canada to be summoned later.
According to Abu Zeid, Nasr presented the ambassadors with a "strongly worded official complaint" after the five countries issued a joint statement on 3 November expressing "deep concerns over the ongoing detention ... and detention conditions” of human rights layer Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, who has been detained pending investigation since September.
Nasr expressed his rejection of the fallacies included in the joint statement, calling on the ambassadors of Germany, Italy and Holland to be more accurate in describing the legal situation of Hegazy.
Nasr explained to the envoys that the lawyer was being held in relation to investigations being conducted by the prosecution, stressing the importance of respecting the country's legal procedures.
“It is unfortunate that such a statement is issued by countries that support sovereignty and the separation of powers,” the foreign ministry added.
The State Security prosecution has accused Hegazy of being a member of an illegal group, spreading false news, and establishing a fictitious group under the name of the Association of the Families of the Enforcedly Disappeared (AFED) to spread rumours.
Hegazy, one of the founders of AFED , was arrested on 10 September while on his way to Geneva to address the UN Working Group on forced disappearance.
He is also a researcher for the legal team representing the family of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni who was found tortured and killed in Cairo in February 2016. The Egyptian government has been conducting an investigation to identify Regeni's killers.
Hegazy's detention has been renewed.
The five countries also called on the Egyptian authorities "to ensure the freedom of civil society and the protection from torture that are enshrined in the Egyptian Constitution."
Abu Zeid said the ambassadors were informed of Egypt’s rejection of the false claims made regarding the status of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and allegations of torture in Egyptian prisons.
Nasr called on the ambassadors of the three countries not to be influenced by what he described as false information, and for their nations to avoid seeking to act as guardians over other nations.