Political prisoners in Egypt are really all convicted burglars

It remarkable how all European governments are unwilling to condemn Sisi, and how even Emily Thornberry dodged the question posed to her about him in an interview with David Hearst and Peter Oborne, who asked: “Irrespective of his record in office, Mohammed Morsi is Egypt’s first democratically elected president and he is languishing in prison along with over 40,000 other political prisoners. Egypt appears to be under absolutely no pressure about any of this. Don’t you as a democratically elected politician feel some responsibility to him?

Thornberry replies: I hear what you saying. I have been focusing more on the potential changes in the law, introducing 15 year sentences for being homosexual in Egypt. When I have been thinking about Egypt I have been concerned about those sort of changes and the way [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi is tightening his grip on Egypt and the way that Egypt is changing and not necessarily for the better. The way in which the British government seem to be intensely relaxed about Sisi and where he is taking the country – it brings you back to my central theme that foreign policy should be about more than contracts.

Thornberry wants to see a recognition of Palestine, which is fair enough. However, even if Palestine is recognised by a British Labour government, it is unlikely to lead to a real state. On the other hand, democracy in the largest Arab country by far would lead to a seriously new reality in the Middle East. Perhaps that’s what she wants to avoid. But, perhaps that’s being too unkind: clearly, being antagonistic towards Sisi, Israel’s policeman, in the light of pushing for more Palestinian rights and a relaxation of the siege of Gaza, requires biting one’s tongue on the Sisi question.