Egypt Denies Entry to American Scholar Critical of Its Government

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SHAFAQNA – A prominent American scholar and ex-diplomat critical of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been barred from entering Egypt, in what appears to mark a new escalation of the government’s clampdown on dissent.

The scholar, Michele Dunne, is a senior associate in the Middle East program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who spent 17 years as a specialist in the region for the State Department, with postings that included Cairo and Jerusalem as well as the National Security Council. She was traveling to Cairo for a conference organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, a generally pro-government organization composed mainly of former Egyptian diplomats.

In a telephone interview on Saturday from the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Ms. Dunne said that security officials at the Cairo airport had stopped her upon arrival late Friday night and held her for about six hours before putting her on a flight out of the country.

When she asked why she had been detained, she said, a security official at the airport told her, “No reason, but, Madame, you cannot access Egypt any more.”

The incident appears to be the first time in decades that Egypt has turned away a Western scholar. It follows officials’ refusal last August to allow a delegation of top officials from Human Rights Watch to enter the country, where they had planned to release a report sharply critical of President Sisi for his oversight of a deadly crackdown on Islamists who were protesting the military’s takeover of the country in 2013.

Some Egyptian scholars with international reputations and credentials have also faced restrictions after criticizing the military takeover. Emad Shahin, now a professor at Georgetown University, left Egypt in January because prosecutors had filed espionage charges against him. Amr Hamzawy, a liberal political scientist and professor at the American University in Cairo who is a former member of the dissolved Egyptian Parliament, was barred for months from leaving the country because of charges that he had insulted the judiciary, though there have been some reports that his travel ban is no longer in effect.

Several Egyptian human rights advocates have left the country, saying privately that they feared arrest amid the crackdown on dissent. On Monday, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that after 20 years, it was relocating its regional and international programs to Tunis “in light of the ongoing threats to human rights organizations and the declaration of war on civil society” in Egypt. So far, the organization’s name has retained its reference to Cairo.

Among other recent commentaries, Ms. Dunne has pointedly criticizedEgypt’s attempts to carry out what she called “draconian” restrictions on nongovernmental organizations as well as its “harassment and intimidation” of activists. She has also recently criticized the Egyptian government’s heavy-handed attempts to suppress both political dissent and an armed Islamist insurgency, raising questions about the government’s claims to be moving toward the restoration of stability.

A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry declined to comment about the refusal to let Ms. Dunne into the country.

Mohamed Ibrahim Shaker, vice president of the foreign affairs group that invited Ms. Dunne, said he respected the government’s decision to deny her entry.

“This is a security decision that we won’t interfere in,” he told the Egyptian online publication Mada Masr, “because the security apparatus knows better about these situations and is keen on the stability of the country.”

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/

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