September 12, 2018 / 3:40 PM / 13 days ago

France presses close ally Egypt to suspend mass death sentences

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign ministry on Wednesday expressed concern over an Egyptian court’s decision to sentence 75 people to death and urged authorities to suspend the execution of their sentences.

The court handed down the death sentences on Sept. 8 to regime opponents linked to a 2013 sit-in that ended with security forces killing hundreds of protesters. Among those convicted were prominent Islamist leaders Essam al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi.

“We call on the Egyptian authorities to suspend the execution of these convictions,” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von der Muhll said in a daily online briefing.

Paris has rarely rebuked Cairo in public on human rights since President Emmanuel Macron came to power in May, 2017.

France, and in particular Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, enjoys close relations with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and those ties have become stronger amid worries over the political vacuum in Libya and the threat from jihadist groups in Egypt.

Rights organizations have accused Macron of turning a blind eye to what they say are increasing violations of civil freedoms by Sisi’s government.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Richard Lough and Toby Davis

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