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EU deputies slam Egypt over rights despite Cairo threats
EU deputies slam Egypt over rights despite Cairo threats
European Union lawmakers adopted Thursday a resolution criticising Egypt’s human rights record, as Cairo threatened to sever ties with the assembly and summoned EU ambassadors to complain.
Friday, January 18,2008 06:25

European Union lawmakers adopted Thursday a resolution criticising Egypt"s human rights record, as Cairo threatened to sever ties with the assembly and summoned EU ambassadors to complain.

In a sparsely attended session, belying the importance of a public admonition that had turned into a diplomatic incident, 52 of the 59 deputies present voted in favour of the text, while the seven others abstained.

Before the vote, which came at the end of a plenary week after many of the more than 780 deputies had already left Strasbourg, parliamentary leaders vowed not to cave in to Egyptian pressure.

"The European Parliament is sovereign and decides what it wants to decide," Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit told AFP in Strasbourg.

"If we have to criticise the rights situation in Egypt or Guantanamo or anywhere else, we"re going to do it. I couldn"t care less what they think in the Egyptian capital."

The resolution criticises Egypt over the status of religious minorities, alleged torture practices and the decades-long state of emergency.

It also calls for the immediate release of jailed dissident Ayman Nur, who mounted an unprecedented campaign against President Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections.

He was jailed for five years for fraud in a conviction widely seen as politically motivated.

In Cairo, the foreign ministry summoned EU ambassadors "to inform them of Egypt"s complete rejection of a draft resolution over human rights in Egypt", spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement.

The ministry "will not accept any attempt by any country to comment on the human rights situation in Egypt, as it will not allow itself to lecture other countries over their domestic affairs", Zaki said.

On Wednesday, the speaker of Egypt"s parliament threatened to sever links with the European Parliament if the resolution passed, the official MENA news agency reported.

"The People"s Assembly (Egypt"s lower house) will consider cutting ties with the European Parliament... as long as it continues to use the language of commands and condescension," Fathi Surur told MENA, rejecting the draft text as a "flagrant interference in Egypt"s domestic affairs".

He said the resolution threatened to "harm the historic relationship between Egypt and Europe".

International rights groups have repeatedly expressed concern about human rights in Egypt, including continued crackdowns on political dissent.

In December, the New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned "a pattern of abuse" made possible under Egypt"s state of emergency, imposed in 1981 and in effect ever since.

The state of emergency allows the interior ministry to detain and interrogate people without arrest warrants and to issue detention orders repeatedly for up to six months at a time without a hearing.

The government is currently drafting a new counter-terrorism law to replace the emergency law, but observers have expressed concern that the new legislation will also restrict human rights.

Egypt said that the EU parliamentary resolution "would have a negative effect on Egyptian-European relations and will cast a shadow on efforts of cooperation and coordination between both sides".

Whatever the final outcome, the vote will weigh heavily on a meeting in Cairo next week between Egyptian and European Commission officials, with human rights issues due to be discussed.

Posted in Human Rights , Reports  
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