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Egypt bars entry of US scholar, says problem with 'visa'

Michele Dunne says was invited by pro-government group in Cairo but was put on a plane to Frankfurt after she arrived in Egypt
Egyptian passengers sit at a terminal at Cairo airport on 7 September, 2012 (AFP)

Egypt said Sunday the reason it had barred US scholar and prominent government critic Michele Dunne from entering the country a day earlier was because she did not have a proper visa.

Dunne, who arrived at Cairo airport early Saturday, was later put on a plane to Frankfurt.

The foreign ministry said Dunne had applied for a non-tourist visa at the Egyptian embassy in Washington "but then withdrew her passport," suggesting the former diplomat arrived in Cairo seeking to enter on a tourist visa, with tourism not the purpose of her visit.

Dunne was to attend a panel discussion at a conference organised by a pro-government group in Cairo.

Dunne told AFP in an email Saturday she had been invited to be a panelist at a conference organised by the pro-government Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA).

"Authorities have no reason whatsoever for refusing me entry. I have visited several times per year for more than a decade now," she said.

Dunne, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a former diplomat specialised in the Middle East.

"Some Egyptians complain I don't list enough to pro govt views. When I accept invite to conf of pro govt group they deny me entry. Go figure," she said on Twitter.

The authorities expressed surprise at her remarks.

"The consular department was surprised by the US scholar's allegations ... and wondered if the United States allows foreign nationals to enter its territory without prior visa from US embassies abroad," the ministry said.

In August, authorities blocked top Human Rights Watch officials at the airport when they arrived to release a report on a government crackdown targeting supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader.

HRW said Egypt banned its head from entering the country, citing "security reasons."

Morsi was ousted in a coup last year by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Since Morsi's overthrow, at least 1,400 have died in clashes with police and more than 15,000 jailed in a crackdown, while Morsi and leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood face trials punishable by death.

The crackdown triggered widespread international outrage.

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