In an interview with Foreign Policy in Washington, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry denied Egypt currently has 40,000 political prisoners and slammed Western governments for their lack of support in Egypt’s “war on terror.”
Shoukry said the number is a “lie” and has been “repeated and repeated and repeated in the public domain until it has been accepted as a matter of fact.”
Meanwhile, the West’s focus on Egypt’s human rights record is “unfair” in light of its lack of support to Egypt in its fight against terrorism, Shoukry.
“Egypt has been treated as a culprit, and not as a victim,” Foreign Policy quoted Shoukry as saying. “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.”
He also criticized assumptions that Egypt is incapable of maintaining its internal security, referring in particular to the World Economic Forum’s “flimsy” decision to cancel a summit that was scheduled to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh.
The minister also slammed allegations that the murder of Giulio Regeni, the Italian PhD student who was missing in Cairo for 9 days before his body was found with alleged signs of torture, was the work of Egyptian security forces as “utterly confounding.”
According to Shoukry, some journalists who were listed among those arbitrarily arrested were found “living and prospering well in their jobs, in their homes and the had never been touched,” adding, “they had just been put on certain lists just as a matter of filling those lists.”
Several international organizations have slammed Egypt’s human rights record over the past few years, particularly in terms of its crackdown on journalists and press freedom.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders, Egypt has the second-highest number of jailed journalist in the world, with CPJ reporting figures 23 imprisoned journalists and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) saying the figure is as high as 63.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement last month that it will “allow” 3,462 students to sit their examinations inside prison, in coordination with the Ministry of Education.
Shoukry arrived in the American capital on Sunday for a three-day trip aimed at bolstering US-Egypt relations. Since his arrival, he has met with several US officials and experts, including leading US Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and has been interviewed by US media outlets such as Foreign Policy and the Wall Street Journal.