VIDEO: Exiled Morsi aide takes on Egypt diplomat over mass death sentences
An Egyptian political activist sentenced to death clashed with a member of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s delegation to London on Thursday during a televised talk show.
Sondos Asem, former international media co-ordinator for ousted former president Mohamed Morsi, is the most high-profile woman to be handed down the death penalty in Egypt since 2013.
An Egyptian court in May sentenced her to death in absentia for allegedly committing espionage by conspiring with Palestinian movement Hamas as well as the UK, the US, Iran and Hezbollah.
During a conversation on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Asem discussed the current situation in Egypt, from where she is exiled, with Mohamed el-Orabi, a Mubarak-era diplomat who accompanied President Sisi on his controversial trip to the UK this week.
“I’ve never found myself in a situation before where one guest has been sentenced to death under a regime of which another studio guest is a member,” the show’s host, James O’Brien, said.
Orabi told O'Brien that “everyone” the Egyptian delegation had met in the House of Commons and the House of Lords had praised the country’s progress towards stability.
Asked if he was comfortable with the death sentence handed down against Asem, Orabi replied “of course not. She is Egyptian.”
“If she comes back she will face a fair trial… [But] I do not know her case.”
Writing in a column for Middle East Eye this week, Asem highlighted findings by monitors like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the mass trial in which she was sentenced was “deeply flawed” and politically motivated.
“In Egypt, many of my friends and former co-workers are facing the threat of being executed for crimes they have not committed,” she wrote.
“Most of them are held in solitary confinement, and some have already worn the red uniform designated for those on death row and are subjected to forms of psychological and physical torture that no human should endure.”
On Thursday Asem, who is studying for a Masters in Public Policy at the University of Oxford in the UK, on Thursday told the BBC of her shock at being handed a death sentence in absentia and being "demonised" in the Egyptian press.
"It's very painful for me and anyone who can't go back to their country. I was born and raised in Egypt, and it's my country, which I cherish."
During Thursday night’s talk show, Asem questioned Orabi about the “over 1,000 people who have also been handed down the death penalty since the coup in a matter of hours without a single piece of evidence”.
“We will not discuss that now…We will not indulge in this,” Orabi replied.