Sisi the latest in procession of tyrants visiting UK

Hardline Egyptian leader is popular with UK and US despite his harsh policies

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: he defends his crackdown as necessary for the protection of Egyptians. Photograph: Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: he defends his crackdown as necessary for the protection of Egyptians. Photograph: Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty

 

Hot on the heels of China’s president Xi Jinping’s triumphant visit to Britain last month, the procession of tyrants through the doors of 10 Downing Street continued yesterday with the arrival of Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A former general who toppled Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, in a popular coup two years ago, he has overseen a brutal crackdown on all forms of political dissent. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were shot dead by Mr Sisi’s security forces during demonstrations after the coup and hundreds more have been sentenced to death in mass trials. Pro-democracy activists and journalists have also been locked up as Mr Sisi and his henchmen seek to remove expressions of dissent.

Important opportunity

David CameronAfrica

But as protestors against Mr Sisi’s visit gathered near Downing Street, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the prime minister’s decision to welcome him to London.

“Support for dialogue and negotiated conflict resolution in the Middle East is vital to us all. But to welcome and bolster with military support the coup leader who overthrew a democratically-elected president in 2013 and has presided over the killing and jailing of many thousands since makes a mockery of government claims to be promoting peace and justice in the region,” Mr Corbyn said.

“Support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has been a key factor fuelling the spread of terrorism. Rather than rolling out the red carpet to president Sisi, the prime minister should suspend arms exports to Egypt until democratic and civil rights are restored.”

In an interview with the BBC before his visit, Mr Sisi defended his security crackdown as necessary to protect Egyptians from Islamist terrorism. But he hinted that the Muslim Brotherhood, which he has designated as a terrorist group, could return to the political stage in the future. “The problem doesn’t lie with the government and it doesn’t lie with me. It lies with public opinion, with Egyptians. Egyptians are peaceful people and they don’t like violence. They reacted against the Muslim Brotherhood and are wary of them,” he said.

Egyptian people

 After an initial period of coolness following the coup in 2013, Mr Sisi is now firmly in favour in Washington as well as in London, with officials in both capitals viewing him as an indispensable ally in the fight against radical Islamists in North Africa and the Middle East.

In their eagerness to work with him, western powers have turned a blind eye to foreign policy differences, such as Mr Sisi’s tacit support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, as well as his human rights abuses at home.

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