European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton praised Monday plans for an EU delegation to monitor upcoming presidential elections in Egypt while voicing concern over the 529 defendants sentenced to death in a Minya court.
“I am very pleased that the European Union is sending an electoral observation mission for the elections and I agreed that with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy while I was there,” Ashton said before a Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
Ashton’s remarks encouraged Egypt’s move towards a democracy: “We want the people of Egypt to move forward, we do want these elections to herald the beginning of the next phase of life in Egypt,” Ashton said.
Ashton contrasted her praise with a concern over a recent Minya court ruling that sentenced 529 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to death for the murder of a police officer and the attempted murder of another officer.
“But we are growing in our concern for what is happening in some aspects of Egypt and particularly and not surprisingly, I’ve focused on the death penalty that was handed out to over 500 people.”
Although she added that Egyptian officials assured her that the defendants would not be executed, Ashton said “we also pointed out in return that it sends out very negative signals”.
The High Representative closed her remarks by adding that “[the EU] hopes the next phase of life in Egypt is going to be very positive and it is very good for me to have the honour of meeting people across the spectrum”.
While on a recent visit to Egypt, Ashton met with former minister of defense and presidential hopeful Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in a meeting that the Anti-Coup Alliance, a pro-Morsi opposition bloc, called “evil”.
A statement released by the alliance claimed that “crowds of peaceful millions” ruined Ashton’s visit, delivering a “new slap” to “the coup and its anti-democratic regional and western supporters”.
Egypt and the European Union signed two Memoranda of Understanding that ensure a full Election Observation Mission to oversee next month’s presidential elections.
Al-Sisi, who issued the 48-hour ultimatum on 1 July that ultimately ended Mohamed Morsi’s year-long presidency, is widely favoured to win the upcoming elections. Al-Sisi was also the only presidential candidate with whom Ashton met during her visit.
According to Ashton, the pair “spent some hours” talking.