Egyptian officials rejected what they described as interference in the country’s internal affairs, following US statements criticizing the arrest of staff members working at a local human rights organization.
Members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) were arrested after diplomats, mainly European, visited the group’s headquarters to discuss human rights conditions in Egypt.
EIPR issued a statement announcing the arrest of its executive director, Gasser Abdel Razek, saying he is the third member to be detained in less than a week.
“Gasser Abdel Razek was detained by security forces from his home in Maadi and taken to an unknown location,” EIPR tweeted, without giving further details.
Egypt has not officially commented on the statements issued by a US spokesperson and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the issue.
However, the foreign ministry rejected an official French statement, saying Paris is “interfering in the country’s domestic affairs.”
The ministry noted that France’s statement seeks to influence investigations carried out by the Egyptian General Prosecution, describing EIPR as "an entity operating illegally in the field of civil work."
Earlier, the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over the arrest of EIPR's staff, saying the organization “promotes human rights" in Egypt.
A top adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, also expressed his concern over the arrest of EIPR’s executive director this week.
“Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights,” Blinken asserted in a tweet.
Similarly, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor said it was concerned over the detentions, stressing that the US “believes that all people should be free to express their beliefs and advocate peacefully.”
For its part, OHCHR issued a statement saying it is "a very worrying development that underscores the extreme vulnerability of civil society activists.”
Meanwhile, Former Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP Muhammad al-Orabi said that Western countries usually “misunderstand such issues."
Orabi told Asharq al-Awsat that the Foreign Ministry’s response to its French counterpart was completely appropriate.
US democratic administrations often place human rights cases among their priorities, but relations between the two states have gone through similar issues, and in the end, they remain steadfast, according to Orabi.
Professor of political science at the American University of Cairo Noha Bakr said that the new US administration is expected to make such stances regarding human rights issues.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, she stressed that Egypt has its sovereignty, and when Biden enters the White House, Cairo will discuss those issues and explain them diplomatically.
"Washington is aware of Egypt’s important role in the region," Bakr noted.