Factbox: Sisi in Germany

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi flew to Germany Tuesday for a four-day visit in Europe. During his stay, Sisi is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Joachim Gauck, and speak at the Egyptian-German Economic forum on Wednesday.  


Sisi and Merkel followed a meeting in Berlin with a joint press conference, which was aired live on Egyptian TV. In his opening remarks, Sisi said, “If it wasn’t for Egypt and its people, who went out in millions to fight religious fascism, the region would have been very different.”

Human Rights & Civil Society: MERKEL said she discussed human rights with Sisi, adding that “Egypt is trying to protect them.” She also expressed concern, however, over the future of German civil society organizations in Egypt, and their ability to work in the country.

SISI said, “We are keen on lives and on human beings.” He added, “We are seeking to foster high human values in the face of tough circumstances.” On the issue of civil society organizations, SISI said the status of civil society organizations in the past four years must be understood in the context that Egypt is in a “revolutionary situation.” He said that what happened was not an attempt to “tighten the noose around the organizations.”

Death Sentences: SISI said “Chancellor Merkel spoke with me about the death sentences. We respect the Egyptian judiciary and according to the Egyptian constitution we cannot comment on the rulings or discuss their verdicts.” He added, however, that most death sentences are issued in absentia and so are subject to automatic retrial if the defendant appears before the court. He also explained that the Mufti’s role is that of an advisor, and “has no relation whatsoever to the death sentence.” He added, “These are not exceptional or revolutionary courts.” Answering a question about the death sentence issued to ousted president Mohamed Morsi, Sisi said “I understand what the death sentence means for Germans, and I assure you again that it is a first degree of litigation; I cannot go beyond time and procedures, but let us leave procedures and trials take their time to see what can be done after that.”

MERKEL spoke about the death penalty, saying, “The high number of death sentences is something that we should avoid.” She also said, “There are things where we have a different opinion. That includes, for example, that under no condition should people be sentenced to death, even if it concerns terrorist activity.” She added,  “I think that if one wants to be partners and solve complex issues, we have to be able talk about these things … this doesn’t mean that we can’t work very, very closely on other issues.”

Terrorism: MERKEL said they discussed militant violence in the region and Egypt’s key role in combatting terrorism. She said that Germany cannot face these dangers alone, and described cooperation with Egypt as crucial. Sisi’s visit, she explained, laid the foundation for German-Egyptian cooperation.

Regional Issues: MERKEL said Germany understands Egypt’s role in the region and its role in the peace process, the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, and in restoring stability in Libya.  

Bilateral and Economic Ties: MERKEL spoke about the strategic ties between Egypt and Germany. Egypt, she said, is a strategic partner in the fight against extremism. She added that the two countries are united over a common interests of peace and security. She also promised closer economic ties. “Egypt is one of the central countries in a region marked by unrest and instability,” she said, adding that business ties could result in “stability through economic development.” Merkel noted that the Egyptian-German Joint Economic Committee was in session during Sisi’s visit, discussing Germany’s role in development in Egypt. She also noted that the German Minister of Commerce’s attendance at Egypt’s Economic Development Conference was an indication of Germany’s impression that Egypt is headed in the right direction.

SISI said that Egypt cherished the relationship the two countries enjoy, adding Egypt seeks to “improve and consolidate these relations.”

Watch the entire press conference (No subtitles):

At the end of the press conference, a protester shouted, “He is a murderer.” Egyptian journalists attending the conference shouted her down with chants of “Long live Egypt.”  As she was escorted out of the hall, she continued to chant, “Down with military rule.”


Sisi’s visit to Germany was met with much criticism, both from Germans as well as from Egyptians residing in the country.

NORBERT LAMMERT: The head of the German parliament, President Norbert Lammert reiterated his decision to call off a meeting with Sisi due to “human rights concerns.” He said, “I would have liked that cooperation between the parliaments of both countries would be possible, but now in Egypt, there is neither a parliament nor a concrete view on relevant elections.”

CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION: Foreign Policy Spokespersons for Merkel and Lammert’s party, Philipp Missfelder described Egypt as “one of the most stable and safest countries in the whole region.”

SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Niels Annen said Egypt is a “very important partner for the West in the region.”

GREEN PARTY: Members of the opposition Green Party, Omid Nouripour and Franziska Brantner, wrote an op-ed for Daily News Egypt, in which they accused the German government of “falling back into the bad habits of supporting authoritarian rule.” They added, “Successful cooperation can only be based on a development towards human rights and political and economic inclusion.” They also highlighted that the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms’ Executive Director Mohamed Lotfy had been banned from travelling to Germany to address German parliament during Sisi’s visit.


The Egyptian Commission for Rights and FreedomsCairo, June 2, 2015Press Release on Banning the Executive Director of…

Posted by ‎المفوضية المصرية للحقوق و الحريات‎ on Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TAHRIR BERLIN: A group of activists who describe themselves as “mobilizing against the complicity of the German government with the Egyptian regime,” organized a protest in Germany, hung banners denouncing the visit, and started the hashtag #MerkelSisi on Twitter.

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: A small protest was organized by Reporters Without Borders in front of Merkel’s office. They called for the release of imprisoned journalists. 

EGYPTIAN DIASPORA: Two competing protests were organized by the Egyptian diaspora in Germany. Protesters clad in yellow t-shirts bearing the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Raba’a symbol protested the visit.

Sisi’s supporters rallied, carrying posters of the Egyptian president.


Sisi has been accompanied to Germany by a delegation of politicians, celebrities, businessmen, and journalists. Among the journalists travelling to Germany were TV host Wael al-Ebrashy who said the aim of the visit is to “ send a message to Germany that Egyptians are standing by their president and that the current regime represents them.” Celebrities accompanying Sisi included Ahmed Bedeir, Lebleba, Hesham Abbas, Dalia al-Beheiry, Yousra, and Elham Shahin. Businessmen flying to Germany included CBC owner Mohamed al-Amin and Alaa al-Kahky.

Sources: Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DW, Bloomberg, DNE, Mada Masr

Image: Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi address a joint news conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany June 3, 2015. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch_