In an interview with CBS show ’60 Minutes’, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi denies holding any political prisoners in Egypt.
The Egyptian government has demanded that CBS should not air an interview with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that he gave to the US network’s investigative news programme, “60 Minutes”.
CBS said the information given by Sisi in the interview, such as denying the detention of political prisoners and admitting to closely cooperating with Israel, was “not the kind of news his government wanted broadcast”.
“The 60 Minutes team was contacted by the Egyptian ambassador shortly after and told the interview could not be aired,” the network said.
However, CBS said the segment, which they dubbed “The interview Egypt’s government doesn’t want on TV” will be aired on Sunday at 7pm Eastern Time (00:00 GMT).
Interviewed by Scott Pelley, Sisi denied having political prisoners and “prisoners of opinion” in prison.
“There are no political prisoners in Egypt,” he said, his face shiny with sweat.
“We are trying to stand against extremists who impose their ideology on the people,” he continued. “Now they are subject to a fair trial, and it may take years but we have to follow the law.”
On political prisoners in Egypt
Sisi dismissed reports from international rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch that estimated Egypt has imprisoned as many as 60,000 political activists.
“I don’t know where they [HRW] got that figure,” he said.
The rights group had interviewed a former prisoner, relatives of detainees, and lawyers who had documented abusive conditions held in prisons, such as overcrowding, torture, sexual assault, and deaths in custody.
The most notorious of these prisons is the Tora maximum security jail, popularly known as “the Scorpion”.
The Egyptian president also admitted that his army has been closely collaborating with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula against armed fighters.
“That is correct,” he said. “We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis.”
In recent years, various rights groups have highlighted Egypt’s increasingly repressive policies against its own citizens, particularly its crackdown on freedom of expression.
“The security services have been ruthless in clamping down on any remaining political, social or even cultural independent spaces,” Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim said last year.
“These measures, more extreme than anything seen in former President Hosni Mubarak’s repressive 30-year rule, have turned Egypt into an open-air prison for critics.”
Sisi came to power on the back of a popularly-backed military coup in 2013 that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader.
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