Sisi, Obama underscore counterterrorism cooperation
U.S. President Barack Obama - REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

CAIRO: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and American President Barack Obama confirmed strategic cooperation to “counter terrorism” in a Thursday phone call, according to releases by the offices of both presidencies.

While the U.S. statement noted that Obama expressed his concern over mass trials, the status of NGOs and the ongoing imprisonment of journalists and activists in Egypt, the Egyptian statement only noted that Sisi emphasized his commitment to Egyptians’ aspirations for a democratic state that respects rights and freedoms.

The two leaders agreed that Egypt’s political and economic success would reflect on the entire region, presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef said in the Egyptian statement, adding that the two leaders discussed Egypt’s efforts to help resolve conflicts in Iraq and Libya, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US support comes despite alleged Egyptian human rights abuses 

Obama’s concerns relate to hundreds of Islamist defendants who were sentenced to death in three mass trials on serious charges committed after the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins in August 2013.

Meanwhile, 25 activists who peacefully protested military trials for civilians in December 2013 are appealing their 15-year sentence, with prominent figures testifying the protesters were peaceful. Their next court session is on Saturday.

The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression reported that at least 10 journalists are imprisoned in Egypt as of December.

Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are set to attend their first appeal session on Jan. 1. The three were sentenced in June to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Also, freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid—also known as Shawkan—and reporter Ahmed Gamal Ziada have been detained for over a year without a trial date.

The Committee to Protect Journalists put Egypt among the worst jailers of journalists in 2014.

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