Reported number of political prisoners is a 'lie': Egypt’s foreign minister

Ahram Online , Tuesday 9 Feb 2016

‘Are we to return to the practices of Goebbels, where if you repeat a lie sufficiently it becomes a truth?’ Shoukry asked

Sameh Shoukry
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said Monday in an interview with Foreign Policy that the circulated figure of 40,000 political prisoners in Egypt is a lie.

Shoukry--in Washington since Sunday for a three-day visit--dismissed criticism of arrests made by Egyptian security forces following Morsi's ouster, saying the figure was repeatedly reported until it became regarded as a fact.

This figure, which has been reported by Human Rights Watch and a number of media outlets, comes from a report by The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, which claims that politically-motivated arrests and criminal charges in Egypt numbered at over 40,000 people as of May 2014.

"Are we to return to the ideologies and the practices of Goebbels, where he says that if you repeat a lie sufficiently it becomes a truth?” he asked, in reference to the renowned Nazi propagandist.

“It has been an onslaught of 40,000, repeated and repeated and repeated in the public domain until it has been accepted as a matter of fact.”

Shoukry also said that the West has failed to support Cairo in its fight against Islamist extremists who intensified their activities following Morsi's ouster.

“Egypt has been treated as a culprit, and not as a victim,” Shoukry said. 

“When we have seen terror operations in other areas, there was a rush to solidarity. You would have thought that similar solidarity would have been shown to Egypt, especially as it goes through a very difficult stage.”

Shoukry also rejected allegations of involvement by security forces in the death of Italian student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found with signs of torture last week after he disappeared in Cairo on 25 January.

Shoukry added that journalists reporting on the story are “jumping to conclusions and speculation without any authoritative information or authentication of what is being alluded to,” Shoukry told Foreign Policy, while describing Regeni’s killing as a "crime."

The senior diplomat held talks Monday with leading US Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein to examine ways to bolster ties between the two countries, his ministry has said.

The two officials also reviewed recent developments in regional issues, including the Syrian crisis and Egypt's efforts in forming a national unity government in Libya, a ministry spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

Shoukry kicked off his three-day visit to Washington on Sunday, holding meetings with senior government officials and experts at US think tanks.

The foreign minister also gave interviews to several media outlets in which he dismissed allegations of human rights violations in Egypt.

Shoukry also met late on Monday with members of the Council on Foreign Relations and business leaders to address Egypt's efforts to revive its battered economy and draw foreign investments.

Shoukry arrived in the United States after leaving Geneva, where he took part in Syrian peace talks that were suspended amid a Russian-backed assault on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

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