UK-Egypt: London’s invitation to Sissi meets strong opposition
Lawmakers in the British opposition, scholars, journalists and activists have voiced their dismay at Downing Street’s invite to Egyptian President al-Sissi who is expected in the British capital early next month.
In a letter published by the Guardian on Tuesday, some 55 signatories called on London to withdraw the invitation extended to the Egyptian President.
The letter was signed by leading figures of the opposition parties including John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor under new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow secretary for international development. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, as well as journalists, academics and political activists, and opponents of the Egyptian government were also among the signatories.
They described the invitation as a shame to the democratic values cherished by UK. They also lambast Sissi’s government for its poor human rights records marked by thousands of arrests, killings and unfair trials of opposition members and critics.
The invitation “violates the British values which the government claims to champion to welcome a ruler who has overthrown an elected government and instituted a regime of terror which has thrown back the cause of democracy in Egypt and the wider Middle East many years,” said the letter.
“No considerations of commerce or realpolitik can justify such an invitation. We urge the government to withdraw it,” the letter added.
Also on Tuesday, government spokesperson defended London’s invitation saying that it will lead to trust and possibility of addressing discords later on.
“The prime minister has invited President Sisi to Downing Street to discuss how to work together on areas of mutual interest, including combating terrorism in Egypt and the region, and bringing stability to Libya,” she told The Guardian.
“The stronger our working relationship, the more able we are to have necessary and frank discussions about issues on which we disagree.”
Human rights groups have also panned UK’s decision to invite the Egyptian President whom they accuse of clampdown and muzzling opposition.
“President al-Sisi presides over the worst human rights crisis in Egypt in decades, with hundreds of government critics sentenced to death following flawed trials, thousands of others imprisoned and many of these subjected to torture, and with severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association,” David Mepham, the UK Director of Human Rights Watch said last week.