CBS aired a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday, Jan. 6 featuring an interview with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi despite backlash from the Egyptian government. In the interview, President el-Sisi denied the presence of political prisoners in Egypt.
“I said there are no political prisoners in Egypt,” el-Sisi said. “Whenever there is a minority trying to impose their extremist ideology we have to intervene regardless of their numbers.”
El-Sisi’s statement is at odds with Human Rights Watch, which estimates the number of political prisoners in Egypt to be around 60,000.
“President Al-Sisi’s misinformation is laughable, fools no one and is a poor attempt to conceal serious abuses under his authority, including possible crimes against humanity,” stated Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, according to the organization’s website. “Several of his answers even contradicted the government’s own official statements.”
Shortly after the interview took place, the Egyptian ambassador told the 60 Minutes team they could not air the interview as reported by CBS News.
Second only to Israel, Egypt receives nearly $1.5 billion in aid from the United States annually. Interviewer Scott Pelley questioned whether the American people should continue funding a government that may be a repressive dictatorship.
“They’re investing in security and stability in the region. The United States is in charge of security worldwide,” el-Sisi countered.
The Egyptian president has been criticized internationally for extreme measures including the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition party and the massacre at Rabaa square, where over 800 opposition protesters were killed.
Amnesty International reports Egyptian authorities employ solitary confinement as a means of torturing political prisoners.
They have documented 36 cases of prisoners being held in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement, six of them are unlawfully isolated from the outside world since 2013, according to the organization’s website.