Banner drops, street rallies and marches greeted Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi on the first day of his state visit to Germany on 3 June. Human rights groups, journalists, left-wing and Green MPs, and Egyptian activists living in Germany played a key role in mobilising anger at Sisi’s ‘red-carpet’ treatment from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The financial rewards for German business are a key factor in Merkel’s welcome for Sisi: a $9 billion-dollar deal with German firm Siemens was signed off today. The Wall Street Journal described the contract to supply Egypt with new gas-steam and wind power plants as “the largest single order in the company’s history.”
Activist group Tahrir Berlin organised giant banners across Berlin condemning Merkel’s support for “fascism in Egypt”, and mobilised for a street rally highlighting the scale of repression in Egypt. In a statement issued on the eve of the visit, the activists called for solidarity against the German government’s complicity in Sisi’s crimes.
For almost 2 years, Sisi’s regime, hostile to human rights and social justice, has been murdering, torturing and imprisoning people with absolute impunity. This wave of repression, documented and denounced by internationally renowned human rights organizations, has left several thousand dead and over 40,000 detainees languishing in prison without fair trial. All branches of the state apparatus, especially the military, the police and the judicial system, are collaborating to quash dissent and create a climate of terror.
Behind the visit lay an agenda of increasing security coordination between the two regimes, the statement warned.
During his visit, several deals are set to be finalized including a cooperation agreement between the German and the Egyptian police forces; and a possible deal for coordinated repression on migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood mobilised hundreds in several marches and rallies around Berlin, including a protest at the historic Brandenburg Gate and demonstrations greeting Sisi’s motorcade.
Meanwhile Reporters without Borders activists also took to the streets to protest the violations of media freedom and highlight the cases of photojournalist Shawkan, detained without trial for over 600 days and Abdallah Fakharany of the RASD news service who is serving a life sentence.
Christine Buchholz, Member of the Bundestag for the left-wing Die Linke party issued a statement condemning Sisi’s visit, while the Green Party leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt hit back at the Egyptian authorities’ decision on Tuesday to stop human rights activist Mohamed Lotfy from flying to Germany where he was due to speak at a parliamentary round-table event. “If the government rolls out the red carpet for al-Sisi tomorrow, then it is doing so for an autocrat that has stamped on the principles of justice and democracy,” she said.
Even the official press conference didn’t go to plan for Sisi and Merkel – a woman journalist, identified on social media as Egyptian student Fagr al-Adly, shouted down the speeches with chants of “He’s a murderer” and “Down with military rule”, before being bundled out of the room by security.
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