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French president refuses to criticize Egypt's Sisi over human rights

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, leads Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi out after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron has declined to publicly criticize the rights record of his Egyptian counterpart amid a visit by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the Elysee Palace.

Macron said at a press conference with Sisi in the French capital, Paris, on Tuesday that he was not in the business of giving "lessons."

"We do not give lessons without taking account of the context."

The French president also voiced support for Egypt's "fight against violent religious fundamentalism."

Macron, however, said combating extremism "should be carried out with the respect of the rule of law and human rights."

Macron's aides earlier said he had raised cases of detained activists in private during the two-hour talks with the Egyptian head of state.

The two countries marked Sisi's visit to Paris with the signature of several agreements on transport, energy and cultural cooperation.

Egypt is a major buyer of French military equipment with orders worth more than 5.8 billion dollars since 2015 including for 24 Rafale fighter jets.

International rights organizations have repeatedly accused the former head of the armed forces and current President Sisi of repressive policies that stifle dissent in the media and politics, as well as the use of torture by security forces.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged President Macron to end France's "disgraceful policies of indulgence" toward Sisi.

The Egyptian government has been cracking down on opposition since the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup in July 2013 led by Sisi. The controversial ouster sparked protests by supporters of Morsi and the country’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement.

According to Human Rights Watch, Egyptian authorities have arrested or charged at least 60,000 people, forcibly disappeared hundreds for months at a time, given preliminary death sentences to hundreds more, and tried thousands of civilians in military courts since the 2013 coup.

Sisi has presided over a wide-scale crackdown on dissent and Egyptian authorities have jailed several human rights activists and banned others from travelling due to allegations of harming national security.


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