CAIRO: United States Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone said on Wednesday that the Egyptian government should explain the actions taken by its security forces in response to recent protests.
We are at the very least disappointed, says Ricciardone when asked for his reaction to the detainment of activists during a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. We don t know all the facts. We know that there are at least two sides to every story. We ve heard one side. I think its incumbent upon the government not to explain to the United States of America, we re not owed an explanation, but I think to Egyptians, what the true facts are.
Ricciardone adds that, if reports of violence by security forces are true, the government should also explain the steps it plans to take in response to the behavior of security forces.
If the facts are not as portrayed by the opposition, then they should be brought out, says Ricciardone. If the facts are even remotely as portrayed by the opposition, then they should also be brought out, and what measures the government will take to respond to those facts should also be explained.
Police detained several activists that participated in protests over the past month and reacted violently to demonstrators on a number of occasions.
Karim Al-Shair and Mohamed Al-Sharqawy were dragged from their vehicles and beaten during last week s demonstration marking the anniversary of Black Wednesday, when on May 25, 2005 protestors calling for a boycott of a referendum to change the constitution were met with violence from police and thugs.
Both men were allegedly later tortured and Al-Sharqawy was allegedly sodomized with a cardboard role by police. Human Rights Watch called on President Hosni Mubarak to order an independent investigation into these events.
Meanwhile, Ricciardone says that a government aspiring for democracy should endure non-violent dissent.
Every country has a responsibility to pass laws to protect both freedom of expression and public order, says Ricciardone. Tolerance for peaceful, orderly protest is a hallmark of democratic and democratizing governments.
Ricciardone also describes the media s role as a vital force for political change alongside the government and opposition movements.
The media has its role to portray the facts, not exaggerate them, not give a small part of the picture, says Ricciardone, and that s true when we re talking about allegations regarding abuses in Egypt or allegations regarding American policy.
The ambassador repeated his government s dissatisfaction with the trial against opposition figure Ayman Nour that concluded with his imprisonment for five years. We don t think that even criminal cases that involve politicians can be purely criminal; they have a political dimension, says Ricciardone. We certainly don t know all the details. All we know is that the man who ran for the presidency here and came in second, lost the elections by a great margin, ended up before the courts and got what appears to Americans a very harsh sentence.
Ricciardone also downplayed the significance of a recent visit to Washington by the Mubarak s son, National Democratic Party s Policy Secretariat Head Gamal Mubarak, seen by many as his father s heir despite his repeated denials. Gamal Mubarak met with U.S. President George Bush, U.S. Vice President Dick Chenney and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley during his visit.
He wanted to see us and we re glad to see him, says Ricciardone. He is the son of the president, whom we respect and we respect him. He came to the White House. We asked him what s going on in Egypt and he explained what s going on in Egypt. We see lots of eminent Egyptians all the time in Washington.