German interior minister Thomas de Maizière arrived in Egypt on Wednesday for an official two-day visit, which aims to enhance security cooperation, counter-terrorism, airport security, and immigration.
A meeting will be held between de Maizière and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Thursday. The German minister will also meet his Egyptian counterpart Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, according to an official statement issued on Tuesday night by the German embassy in Cairo.
The German minister will deliver a speech at Al-Azhar University, having received an invitation from Al-Tayeb to speak about religious tolerance, the statement read.
According to the embassy’s statement, de Maizière will sign bilateral security agreements with Abdel Ghaffar during his visit.
The German government recently expressed its concerns about human rights conditions in Egypt, through an official statement issued by the German foreign office. The statement came following reopened investigations into the “NGOs’ foreign funding” case which brought a number of Egypt’s most renowned human rights defenders to prosecution.
“We are following the latest travel bans, bank account freezes, and investigations against human rights activists and organisations in Egypt with great concern,” a statement from the German foreign office read.
The German statement stressed that recent moves by the Egyptian authorities violate both international human rights’ standards and the Egyptian constitution.
“Respect for human rights and a free civil society are prerequisites for sustainable stability,” the statement added.
The German government called on the Egyptian government to “create conditions in which human rights groups can perform their work unhindered”.
The foreign funding case dates back to December 2011, when prosecutors, backed by the police, stormed the offices of 17 local and international NGOs, including the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House, as part of a probe into the NGOs’ allegedly receiving illegal foreign funding.
Forty-three NGO workers were put on trial, including 32 foreigners, and were convicted of unlicensed work and receiving illegal foreign funds. Twenty-seven defendants, all foreigners, were sentenced to five years imprisonment in absentia, while another five foreigners received two-year sentences in attendance, and 11 Egyptians received a one-year suspended sentence and an EGP 1,000 fine.