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Egypt’s Sisi travels to Germany with 140 high profile supporters

During his recent visit to Germany, Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi flew in over 100 supporters to publicly show their devotion to him
Egyptian demonstrators hold banners as they gather on 22 May 2015 in front of Bundestag to protest against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's visit to Germany (AA)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s two day visit to Germany earlier this week, despite previous reservations by leading German officials, was cordially greeted by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck.

Al Jazeera reported that ahead of Sisi’s visit to Berlin last Tuesday, 140 of his supporters, including celebrities, were flown in to the German capital, in a show of what human rights activist Mohammed Lotfy described as “a sign of how frail the state is”.

“The regime is scared of even one person going out to speak critically,” Lotfy said.

Among the supporters were journalists, celebrities, politicians and businessmen.

Wael al-Ebrashy, a TV host and member of the travelling support group, told media that the objective of the trip is to “send a message to Germany that Egyptians are standing by their president and that the current regime represents them”.

Celebrities included the actresses Yousra and Elham Shahin, who have appeared in dozens of soap operas and movies.

The Egyptian ambassador to Germany, Mohamed Hijazy, threw a lavish dinner party at his residence in Berlin for Sisi’s delegation of supporters.

Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported that the dinner party was a joyous affair, celebrating the success of Sisi’s trip, and the growing relations between the two countries. Egyptian nationalistic songs, in addition to the popular “Boushrat Kheir” song by Emirati singer Hussein al-Jasmi, were played throughout the night. “Boushrat Kheir” was written to call on Egyptians to vote for the presidential election in 2014 which Sisi won; as a result, many consider the song to be Sisi’s anthem.

Anti-Sisi activist interrupts Berlin press conference

Ahead of the Egyptian president’s trip to Germany, five prominent human rights group, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, urged Merkel to pressure Sisi to end “the gravest human rights crisis in Egypt in decades”.

Despite Merkel’s gentle rebuke over Sisi’s government’s use of capital punishment in the press conference on Tuesday, the chancellor acknowledged that close relations between the two countries will usher in “stability through economic development”.

Egypt managed to obtain a multi-billion euro energy deal with German engineering company Siemans, which could increase the North African country’s power generation by 50 percent.

The press conference with Merkel and Sisi was marred towards the end as one Egyptian woman in attendance screamed that Sisi was a “Nazi” and a “murderer”. She then called for an end to military rule before being told by Egyptian aides to “shut your mouth”. The Egyptian journalists and delegation in the room, who clapped throughout Sisi’s short speech, responded to the protester with chants of “Long live Egypt!”

The woman, a fourth year medical student called Fajr al-Adli, was escorted outside the room but said that she was not harmed.

“I was taken to a room where the security guards gave me back my passport,” Adli, 22, told Egyptian al-Sharq TV channel, saying that all those attending the press conference had to hand in their passports before entering. “The guards were nice and brought me a police car to take me to the protest outside because they didn’t want anyone from [Sisi’s accompanying] delegation to attack me.”

Adli was referring to the protests held outside the Chancellery building, where hundreds of people, pro and anti-Sisi were kept far away from each other by German police.

Samir Sabri, a lawyer and well known supporter of Sisi, sued Adli in the Court of Administrative Justice for her actions, and called on the court to revoke her Egyptian citizenship.

Sisi later commented on the incident, saying that he would like to have engaged her in a dialogue.

“I wanted to talk to her individually and explain the harm that would have impacted on Egypt and also on the leaders that she believes in if they continued to rule the country,” he explained, referring to former president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group who were ousted from power in the summer of 2013.

Meanwhile, a group of activists who described themselves as “mobilising against the complicity of the German government with the Egyptian regime” hung banners all over the city of Berlin, denouncing Sisi’s trip and highlighting human rights violations committed by his government.