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UK opposition politicians call for Sisi visit to be cancelled

Senior Labour Party figures among signatories to letter condemning Egyptian president's 'regime of terror' ahead of expected visit to London
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on 10 October 2015 (AFP)

Senior figures within the UK's main opposition Labour Party have called on the British government to withdraw an invitation to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to visit London in early November and accused him of instituting a "regime of terror" in which thousands of people have been "massacred".

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor under new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Diane Abbott, Labour's shadow secretary for international development, were among 55 signatories putting their names to a letter published in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday which said that they regarded "any visit to the UK by this despot (Sisi) as an affront to democratic values."

The letter was also signed by Caroline Lucas, a member of parliament for the Green Party, as well as journalists, academics and political activists, as well as opponents of the Egyptian government including Maha Azzam, the head of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council and Anas al-Tikriti, the chief executive of the Cordoba Foundation.

"We believe [the invitation] violates the British values which the government claims to champion to welcome a ruler who has overthrown an elected government and instituted a regime of terror which has thrown back the cause of democracy in Egypt and the wider Middle East many years," said the letter.

The letter also accuses Sisi's government of massacring "thousands of civilians" and of describes the sentencing to death of hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood as "a travesty of justice".

"No considerations of commerce or realpolitik can justify such an invitation. We urge the government to withdraw it," the letter said.

Tuesday's letter followed a failed bid by 44 British MPs in July urging David Cameron, the British prime minister, to reconsider the invitation to Sisi.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office told Middle East Eye last week that Sisi would visit London in the first week of November.  

Speaking to the Guardian on Tuesday, a government spokesperson defended the decision to invite Sisi.

"The prime minister has invited President Sisi to Downing Street to discuss how to work together on areas of mutual interest, including combating terrorism in Egypt and the region, and bringing stability to Libya," she told The Guardian.

“The stronger our working relationship, the more able we are to have necessary and frank discussions about issues on which we disagree."

Meanwhile, the Labour Party said that it planned to raise human rights concerns with Sisi during his visit.

Speaking to MEE in August during his successful leadership campaign, Corbyn criticised the government for inviting Sisi to London.

"I would not have invited [Sisi] to the UK because of my concerns over the use of the death penalty in Egypt and the treatment of people who were part of the former government of Morsi, which was elected, and the continued imprisonment of President Morsi," Corbyn said.

"That’s not to give a judgment on the Brotherhood or any other party – it’s to give a judgement on what democracy actually means."

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