A European Union ambassador to Egypt has voiced concerns about a recent crackdown on young people and journalists, but praised the country’s new charter as the best in Egypt’s modern history.
In remarks made by EU Ambassador James Moran Wednesday, in his first local TV interview after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, the diplomat hailed Egypt’s new constitution — overwhelmingly backed in a January referendum — as “very encouraging” and “promising” in the protection of rights and freedoms.
Billing it as “the best in Egypt’s modern times,” the EU ambassador also praised the charter for giving parliament broader powers, something he said is decisive in establishing democracy.
Speaking of the toppling of Morsi seven months ago, Moran said that the EU has never referred to the move as a “coup,” saying that “what happened last year took place on the back of a massive popular uprising.”
Morsi’s Islamist allies and his Muslim Brotherhood group call his removal a coup that has undermined the country’s democratic credentials.
Treading carefully on a highly expected presidential bid by army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who led Morsi’s overthrow, Moran said that it’s not the EU’s business to be concerned about who would contest the forthcoming presidential vote which, according to him, will be overseen by a EU commission.
El-Sisi, who has grown in popularity immensely since July, is expected to win a sweeping victory if he runs for president.
Moran has urged Egypt to provide an “open atmosphere” that allows for everybody to campaign fairly for the poll, due mid-April.
Egypt has been gripped by violent tumult since Morsi’s removal. An Islamic insurgency against army and police has taken a heavy toll in the Sinai Peninsula, and more recently spilled over into the capital Cairo and other parts of the country.
Moran condemned militant attacks that have killed dozens of police and soliders as “outrageous,” saying that the situation in the volatile Sinai region is “extremely worrying.”
He also voiced alarm over the arrest of journalists and activists in recent weeks, saying that the 28-member EU bloc was “confused” about such measures.
Interim authorities have mounted a fierce crackdown on Islamists since July 2013. Thousands of Morsi supporters have been jailed and hundreds others killed in street violence.
But the arrest of many non-Islamist protesters, along with several prominent secular-minded activists, has fuelled anxiety that the country is returning to the oppressive policies practised under long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year rule was ended by the 2011 uprising.
Several journalists have also been detained and are facing terror-related charges.
Egypt must “loosen up” restraints and pressure put on the media if authorities want the upcoming elections to succeed, Moran said.
“We are worried that the [government is] radicalising young people,” Moran added, citing the frustration of many in having been unfairly jailed or faced with “incredible charges” or “disproportionate” sentences.
Source: Ahram Online