5 Nov 2015

Protests as Egypt’s President al-Sisi welcomed at Number 10

Pro and anti-Sisi demonstrators clash as David Cameron welcomes the controversial leader, who is accused of mass human rights abuses.

Mass protests outside Downing Street saw opponents of Egyptian President President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his supporters facing off.

A group of protesters posing as executed prisoners lay down to block Downing Street’s gates as Mr Sisi arrived for his three-day visit.

Mr al-Sisi has been criticised for launching the toughest crackdown on Islamists in Egypt’s modern history after toppling President Mohamed Morsi of the Brotherhood.

Mass trials have seen courts hand down death sentences or long prison sentences against hundreds of people.

Many journalists have controversially been imprisoned – including the well-known case of Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed.

Amnesty International said in a statement: “There have been horrifying mass death sentences since President al-Sisi came to power – some after grossly unfair trials – and thousands have been detained in an attempt to quash all opposition.

“Almost no-one’s escaped attention in al-Sisi’s crackdown, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, peaceful protesters and journalists all now languishing in jail.”

However, there were “hundreds” of pro-Sisi supporters who credit him with restoring stability after the turbulence of the Arab Spring.

It is hard to get an accurate measure of the president’s popularity but he does seem to have the approval of many Egyptians.

His democratic legitimacy has been questioned as the former general claimed to have won 96.1 per cent of the vote and critics making accusations of inflation and intimidation.

Military coup

During the Arab Spring Hosni Mubarak was deposed after 29 years in power, and in 2012 parliamentary elections saw the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party make sweeping gains and leader Mohammed Morsi became president.

Upon election he revoked a decree limiting his powers and changed the military’s leadership, with Mr al-Sisi becoming chief of staff and defence minister.

Towards the end of 2012 Morsi issued a decree increasing his powers and drafted what many saw as an Islamist-leaning constitution.

Following mass protests in June 2013 he was deposed in a military coup – led by Mr al-Sisi. Mr Morsi was subsequently sentenced to death in a widely criticised mass trial, but the verdict was upheld earlier this year.