Egypt's press authority slams HRW claims of 'connection between recent arrests and presidential elections'

Ahram Online , Monday 26 Feb 2018

The NPA said arrests and investigations of some political figures mentioned in the 'unprofessional' HRW report were carried out in a transparent and legal manner, stressing 'nobody was arbitrarily detained'

Karam Gabr
A file photo of Karam Gabr, the head of the National Press Authority (Photo:Ahram Arabic website)

Egypt's National Press Authority (NPA) slammed a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday for claiming there was "an escalating crackdown against political opposition" and "arbitrary arrests in January and February ahead of unfair elections," describing the report as "yet another inciting statement by an organization which publishes spread false information about Egypt without proof."

According to the NPA, the HRW statement was unprofessional and unsubstantiated, and aims to take advantage of the presidential elections season to apply political pressures on the country.

The NPA statement also accused the HRW of basing its claims on anonymous sources that could not be trusted, adding that those sources were connected to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Established in 2017 in accordance with the 2014 Egyptian Consitution, the National Press Authority regulates state-owned newspapers and press institutions.

On Monday, HRW issued a statement claiming that the government was using "intensifying repression and terrorism-related charges against peaceful activists to silence critical voices ahead of the planned presidential elections on March 26-28," and referred to the recent arrest of some high profile figures on terrorism and other criminal charges.

The NPA's statement said that the arrests and ongoing investigations of some political figures mentioned in the HRW report, including Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel-Moneim Abou El-Fotouh and former army chief staff Sami Anan were carried out in a transparent and legal manner based on the country's laws and sound prosecutorial and judicial orders, stressing "nobody was arbitrarily detained."

Abul-Fotouh, who was arrested on 14 February, is facing charges of spreading false news aiming to harm national interests, and being of a leading member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist group since late 2013.

On Sunday, Egypt's top prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered an asset freeze on Abul-Fotouh and 15 others on accusations of ties to terrorist activity.

Meanwhile, Sami Anan, who was arrested on 23 January, is accused of violating military laws and forging public documents.. 

The NPA also stressed that there was no relation between the presidential elections and the current investigations into those accused in terrorism-related cases.

"The elections process is directed by the independent National Elections Authority (NEA) under the supervision of 16,500 judges," the NPA said, adding that "these are gurantees of fair elections that do not exist in many democratic countries."

The presidential elections are set for 26-28 March with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi facing off against Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the head of Ghad Party.

In the statement, HRW called on the Egyptian parliament to cancel the Terrorist Entities Law, urging the prosecutors to reverse "terrorist designation on hundreds of people."

The law defines terrorist entities as groups or organisations that "through any means, inside or outside the country, seek to call for the disabling of laws, or prevent state institutions or public authorities from functioning, or seek to attack the personal liberty of citizens, or other freedoms and rights granted [to citizens] by the law and constitution, or to harm national unity or social peace."

The NPA said HRW continues to fail to understand that Egypt is conducting a war against terrorism, and "has not issued any statements for the rights of the thousands of army and police personnel who died in terrorist attacks."

Despite the war against terrorism, the statement stressed, "Egypt is still committed to the constitution and the law when it comes to security procedures."

On 9 February, Egypt's military and police forces launched the comprehensive counter-terrorism Operation Sinai 2018 to purge the country from terrorism in North Sinai and in other governorates.

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