CAIRO: The United States has lambasted Egypt for the recent spate of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members prior to local municipal elections scheduled for April 8.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters at a briefing Wednesday, “We are concerned by a continuing campaign of arrests in Egypt of individuals who are opponents of the current governing party and are involved in the upcoming local elections.
Around 350 MB members have been arrested in the past month and the group has spoken out against the arrests coming at the time when candidates for the council elections are due to submit their candidacy applications.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had earlier this month waived a $100 million freeze on American aid to Egypt which was placed in part because of the human rights situation in the country.
Egypt had reacted furiously to the decision – initially put in place by the US Congress – unequivocally stating that it would not tolerate any interference in its domestic affairs.
Over the perceived vagaries of US policy regarding this subject Press Attaché at the American Embassy in Egypt Margaret White told Daily News Egypt, “There is no inconsistency. The administration for some time has contended that conditions in US economic and military assistance would not be effective in encouraging human rights and other reforms.
“We support democracy and human rights but tying the aid will not accomplish that. We continue to be involved in a range of activities to support human rights in Egypt. We also recognize that reform in Egypt must be an Egyptian process, White added.
Perino had also said in her briefing, “We call on the government of Egypt to cease any actions that would compromise the ability of the Egyptian people to fully exercise their internationally recognized human rights and to participate in a free and fair election.
“The people of Egypt should be permitted to choose freely among competing candidates, Perino added.
Rice had said of her decision to waive the aid freeze, “We believe that this relationship with Egypt is an important one and that the waiver was the right thing to do.
Yet Rice had also stressed that despite the waiver, these issues were still paramount. “I have said to the Foreign Minister (Ahmed Aboul Gheit), even today, the importance the United States attaches to democracy and reform in Egypt and the importance that we attach to progress on those fronts, she said in Cairo.
The MB made significant gains in the 2005 parliamentary elections, when they won a fifth of the seats in the house. However, as it is an outlawed group, their members ran as independents.
The group has claimed that this time the government wants to pre-empt their success in the upcoming local elections by ensuring their candidates don’t run.