Brussels (Brussels Morning) On Wednesday, 222 MEPs called on Egypt to release political prisoners, joining US lawmakers who had made a similar appeal at the beginning of the week, DW reports.
In petitioning Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the MEPs expressed alarm at the growing numbers being detained without charge or trial and denied communication with families or attorneys.
The petition, spearheaded by Belgian and French MEPs, was signed by lawmakers from seven EU member states, including Germany, France and Italy, three important allies of Egypt’s.
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) researcher Mina Thabet said the appeal reflects on Egypt’s notorious record of human rights abuses, with thousands of Egyptians unjustly detained for months or years, or disappeared. He noted too the lasting psychological effects caused by such prison incarceration and abuse.
Thabet cited the importance of applying coordinated pressure and protest to condemn these abuses. US and EU financial, military and diplomatic relations with el-Sisi could and should be used as leverage since, to date, they have allowed el-Sisi to act with impunity.
The petition was a warning to the Cairo regime but how the US and EU reacted was of vital importance.
Professor of political science at Cairo University Hassan Nafaa predicted that the ruling elite will await the results of the coming US presidential election before taking action, if any.
The regime will only respond to executive action and pay little or no attention to the views of EU lawmakers, he opined, since Egyptian lawmakers hold no real power.
According to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), el-Sisi primary focus, since coming to power in 2014, has been to ensure he retains absolute control of a system designed to keep him in power.
CIHRS warned that that system allows the state to falsely categorise citizens who criticise it as threats to national security. CIHRS welcomed the appeals by US and EU lawmakers as acts of unprecedented mobilisation that show the frustration of the international community with on-going rights abuses in Egypt.