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Foreign Ministry denounces UN rights commissioner’s comments on presidential election

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ recent comments on Egypt’s political climate are an “attempt to undermine the credibility and integrity of the presidential election,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday evening, the Foreign Ministry refuted commissioner Zeid bin Raad al-Hussein’s assertions that there is a “pervasive climate of intimidation” in Egypt ahead of the upcoming presidential election, as reported by Reuters earlier that day.

The ministry called Hussein’s comments, which were published in his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council, “false allegations,” claiming that the report contained “an account of fabricated and flawed incidents that reflects a profound disregard the extent of enhancement of human rights promotion in Egypt.”

“Potential [presidential] candidates have allegedly been pressured to withdraw, some through arrests,” Hussein said in the report, adding “legislation prevents candidates and supporters from organising rallies. Independent media have been silenced, with over 400 media and NGO websites completely blocked.”

The Foreign Ministry questioned why the report mentions the presidential election, and claimed that it cast doubt on “the extent to which the state is responsible for the voluntary withdrawal of potential candidates or for their inability to fulfill the requisite candidacy requirements.”

“Any legal procedure taken against any person has been based on legal violations that have been committed,” the statement said, adding that all legal procedures have been dealt with in a transparent and clear framework.

The ministry said that Hussein’s report relied on “politicised reports,” claiming that these were cited with no attempt to check or confirm its sources. “It is not acceptable” for his statements to indirectly support a terrorist group, according to the statement.

In the past weeks, Egypt has seen an arrest campaign, which has reached artists, filmmakers, activists, lawyers and journalists.

This included the arrest a theater troupe for staging a play named after Soliman Khater, an Egyptian soldier who opened fire on Israeli tourists in Sinai on October 5, 1985, killing seven of them. He was later arrested and the authorities claimed he committed suicide while in detention.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that members of the troupe were ordered to be detained for 15 days by the military prosecution on accusations of insulting the Armed Forces.

Editor of the film Minus 1095 Days, a rebuttal to the state-produced 1095 Days, which sought to highlight President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s accomplishments in office, was remanded in detention by the State Security Prosecution on March 5. The prosecution issued the 15-day detention order for filmmaker Ahmed Tarek and accused him of “joining a terrorist group and spreading false news.”

Rights lawyer and Executive director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms Ezzat Ghoneim is also currently being interrogated by the State Security Prosecution on unknown charges. Ghoneim went missing on March 1, and his whereabouts were unknown until he was brought before the prosecution two days later.

The detention of the Maye al-Sabbagh and Ahmed Mostafa, is continuing pending investigations, after they were arrested in connection with filming a report on the tramway in Mansheya.

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