CAIRO: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s decree to repatriate foreign inmates so they can be tried or serve issued verdicts in their homelands has been created to replace absent extradition agreements between Egypt and other countries, according to an interview with a legal expert conducted by The Cairo Post.
A Wednesday decision was released to authorize Sisi to transfer foreign detainees and defendants to their home countries after consent by the attorney general and the Cabinet. The decree has raised questions regarding the type of crimes on which the extradition will be applied and to whom the law applies.
“All non-Egyptian inmates will be covered by the law, except for dual citizens with Egyptian nationality, because Egypt does not hand over its nationals to other states,” Ahmed Refaat, former Beni Suef University president and an international law professor, told The Cairo Post Thursday.
With the nationality restrictions, this would take a number of imprisoned dual citizens—like Egyptian-American Mohamed Sultan and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy—out of the discussion. However, Fahmy’s co-defendant in the Marriott Cell Trial, Australian-Latvian Peter Greste, would in theory qualify under the law.
“The law of extraditing foreigners is a positive step even if it does not include me. I am an Egyptian patriot and will never relinquish my nationality for any reason,” read a tweet posted Wednesday by Fahmy’s Twitter account in reaction to the new decree.
The case of imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists Greste, Fahmy and their Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed has gained international notoriety, and many international media outlets and governments have called on Egyptian authorities to release the prisoners.
The case has been condemned as endemic of eroding press freedoms in Egypt, and many believe calls for the journalists’ release are behind the new presidential extradition decree.
Improving international relations
“The decision is a positive step toward improving relations with many countries around the world after the state of tensions witnessed in the wake of the June 30 revolution,” National Council for Human Rights deputy Abdel Ghaffar Shokr told Youm7 Thursday.
Similar sentiments have been issued by Sisi’s representatives as well.
“This law comes in the framework of upholding the country’s interests and to maintain the international image of Egypt,” said presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef in comments to Youm7 Thursday.
However, some have said the decision will allow the president to interfere in judicial verdicts, and that the law might, according to former State Council President and legal expert Judge Mohamed Hamed el-Gamal in his Nov. 3 comments to The Cairo Post, “stab the independence of our state, which should have control over putting suspects on trial.”
Others have shot back, however, defending the new decree as being in line with existing judicial and presidential powers.
“The president already has a constitutional right to pardon detainees, whether foreigners or Egyptians. The [extradition] decree just allows the president to use his political powers in line with the higher interests of the nation,” said Ahmed el-Khateeb, a judge at the Cairo Court of Appeals, in comments to Youm7 Thursday.
“This decision is not new, as there are already agreements between Egypt and many other countries, especially Arab ones, which regulate the extradition of prisoners,” added Refaat. “It is just to facilitate the process of transfer with countries Egypt does not have extradition agreements with.”