Egypt summons EU envoys

Cairo protests against European body adopting resolution to criticise rights record.

     Cohn-Bendit, the assembly Green leader, said he "couldn't care less what they think" in Cairo [AP]

    "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."

    Cairo anger

    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 Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, 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", a spokesman said.

    Hossam Zaki said 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".

    On Wednesday, the speaker of Egypt's parliament threatened to sever links with the European parliament if the resolution passed, the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency said.

    "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".

    Emergency rule

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

    The resolution calls for the immediate release
    of jailed dissident Ayman Nur [AFP]

    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 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.

    The resolution is likely to weigh heavily on a meeting in Cairo next week between Egyptian and European Commission officials, with human rights issues due to be discussed.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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