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Leading US Senator criticises Sisi for political crackdown in Egypt

January 24, 2018 at 3:35 pm

US Senator John McCain on 17 February 2017 [Andreas Gebert/Anadolu Agency]

A leading US Senator has criticised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sharply for his crackdown on human rights and democracy ever since the 2013 coup in Egypt.

In a statement marking the 7th anniversary of Egypt’s 25 January Revolution, Senator John McCain, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, denounced the executions, abuses, torture and draconian laws employed by the Sisi regime in the aftermath of the coup that derailed the 2011 revolution. “Seven years ago this week,” explained the Republican politician, “the Egyptian people inspired the world with their nonviolent revolution that famously called for bread, freedom and social equality. The movement encouraged all those who seek democracy and freedom.”

The revolution led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year rule and ushered in a promising future. And yet, said McCain, “over the past few years, we have witnessed Egypt lurch dangerously backwards. President Sisi’s unprecedented crackdown on political activism and fundamental human rights has led to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of dissidents, including 19 American citizens and nearly 3,500 young people.”

Highlighting concerns reported by leading human rights group, particularly over the alarming rise in state executions, McCain pointed out that in the past month alone, the government of Egypt has executed more than 20 prisoners sentenced to death in “sham trials that lacked basic norms” of due process. Hundreds more remain on death row. “These violations of human rights,” he added, “have fuelled radicalisation in the past, and I fear they will do so again.”

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McCain drew attention to the alarming rate at which free speech is being eroded in Egypt. He cited examples from organisations and individuals, including some from the International Republican Institute, which he said he chaired, who had been prosecuted and sentenced harshly for working peacefully towards democratic reform. “Government censorship of the media and a draconian law governing NGOs have suffocated the country’s once promising civil society,” protested the Senator. “Egyptian prisons are rampant with abuse and torture.”

While describing the 2018 presidential elections as an “important opportunity… to include citizens in the political process and reopen the public sphere for real discussion and debate,” McCain explained that his hopes were being dashed by the Sisi regime. He pointed to the growing number of presidential candidates who have been arrested and forced to withdraw. “Without genuine competition,” noted the former US presidential candidate, “it is difficult to see how these elections could be free or fair.”

Senator McCain insisted that it is “critical” for the Government of Egypt to embrace the spirit of the 25 January Revolution and respect the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people. “President Sisi and his government [are urged] to fulfil their commitment to genuine political reform and respect for human rights.”

In conclusion, he suggested that, “The only way to achieve lasting peace and security in Egypt is to create accountable, democratic institutions that give all Egyptian citizens a stake in the future of their nation.”