Controversy in wake of Egyptian MP’s removal from UN news conference

Ahram Online , Wednesday 9 Nov 2022

The removal of an Egyptian MP by UN security from a news conference held to discuss the status of imprisoned Egyptian political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah has caused controversy.



The conference was being held on the sidelines of the 27th UN Climate Change Summit (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh.

During the news conference, at which Abdel-Fattah’s sister Sanaa was speaking to the press, security removed MP Amr Darwish after the parliamentarian, who was allowed an audience question, started criticising the “allegations” made by Sanaa regarding her brother's treatment in prison.

Abdel-Fattah has been serving a five-year sentence since 2019 for joining a terrorist group and spreading false news inside and outside the country. Sanaa completed her own 18-month-long prison sentence in December after being convicted of spreading false news.

During the session, which was organised by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, Darwish criticised the Abdel-Fattah family for calling on other countries to put pressure on the Egyptian government to release an Egyptian citizen, which he described as “unacceptable interference in Egyptian affairs and will not be allowed in any way.”

“Abdel-Fattah is not imprisoned in a political case, but faced criminal charges punishable by Egyptian law, as opposed to what is being alleged by his family,” Darwish said, adding that this fact makes him ineligible for pardon by the Presidential Pardon Committee.

Sanaa and the news conference organisers interrupted Darwish and demanded that he ask his question, shortly before UN security removed the MP from the room.

Later that day, Darwish released a video saying he was “surprised by the strange treatment I received from the UN and the organisers of the conference, which contradicts Article 19 of the UN Human Rights Declaration of Human Rights related to freedom of speech.”

“We cannot call on foreign entities and the international community to solve Egyptian matters, especially with fraudulent facts and allegations about a proven criminal who committed felonies. In the end I said that anyone can approach the Presidential Pardon Committee,” Darwish said in the video statement.

Since the re-activation of the Presidential Pardon Committee in April and the launch of preparations for the National Political Dialogue in May, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has pardoned many high-profile political activists who had received final sentences.

This includes Hossam MonesYahia Abdel-HadyHisham Fouad and others.

In recent months, the Public Prosecution has also ordered the release of hundreds of pretrial detainees in groups, including Ahmed El-Nagdy, a journalist for the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV channel, and prominent leftist activist and lawyer Haitham Mohamadein.

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Türk appealed in a statement on Tuesday for Egypt to free Abdel-Fattah, saying that his life “is in imminent danger following a seven-month hunger strike that has escalated with the start of the COP27 climate summit being hosted there.”

“I urge the government to immediately release Abdel-Fattah from prison and provide him with the necessary medical treatment,” Türk said in the statement.

In response, the Egyptian permanent mission to the UN in Geneva released a statement saying it rejects Türk’s comments, asserting that Abdel-Fattah is an Egyptian citizen who has been tried, convicted and is currently serving his sentence.

The mission said that the UN Commissioner's statement deliberately undermines the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law as an indispensable cornerstone for the protection and promotion of human rights, and that describing a judicial decision as "unfair" was an unacceptable insult.

Egyptian MPs and major political parties also teamed up on Wednesday to condemn what they called the politicisation of the human rights agenda at COP27.

The MPs and political parties denounced the “uncivilised reaction” by UN officials towards Drawish, who they said they refused to allow the MP to clarify details about the Abdel-Fattah case.

In November, the Court of Cassation upheld a ruling placing Abdel-Fattah and 26 others on the country’s terrorism list for a five-year period.

In June and July, Abdel-Fattah made headlines when his family alleged that he was being mistreated in prison and that he had gone on hunger strike, claims that have been denied by the prosecution and interior ministry.

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior said in June that it has submitted to the prosecution footage recorded from inside Abdel-Fattah’s prison cell that it said disproves “the false claim of the imprisoned activist’s hunger strike.”

The ministry added that the footage also refutes the claim that no books have been allowed in his prison cell. The ministry’s remarks come after Abdel-Fattah's family asserted that he was still on a hunger strike that started more than 60 days earlier.

A month later, Egypt’s public prosecution said in a statement that Abdel-Fattah denied being mistreated in prison, adding that it investigated claims made by Abdel-Fattah's family that the activist had been subjected to torture and that they were denied visitations with him.

Search Keywords:
Short link: