Human rights group denounce France’s military sales to Egypt

PARIS (AP) — Human right groups alleged in a report Monday that the French government and several private companies have supplied military and surveillance equipment that the Egyptian government uses to silence its citizens.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and three other groups called for an immediate end to the sales and for a parliamentary inquiry in France.

They alleged in the report that the French products “have helped establish” a system of surveillance and control “that is being used to eradicate all forms of dissent and citizen action.”

France has sold warships, fighter jets, armored vehicles, missiles and surveillance technologies to Egypt in recent years.

The Egyptian government has fiercely cracked down on dissent since the military overthrow of an elected and divisive Islamist president in 2013. Thousands of Islamists have been arrested along with secular pro-democracy activists, many of whom are now in prison.

General-turned-President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was elected to a second term in March.

The French government has argued that security and military cooperation with Egypt is needed to fight the extremist groups that encourage acts of terrorism and to prevent further destabilization of the region.

In 2010, deliveries of French weapons were worth 39.6 million euros ($46.2 million.) The value of the sales surged to 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in 2015 and 1.3 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2016, according to French parliament reports.

Human rights groups have denounced an alleged lack of transparency surrounding how France monitors exported arms and surveillance equipment.

“France is helping to crush the (Arab Spring) generation through the establishment of an Orwellian surveillance and control system aimed at nipping in the bud any expression of protest,” the director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Bahey Eldin Hassan, said in a statement.

French magazine Telerama and human right groups reported last year on suspicions that a French company had supplied surveillance equipment the Egyptian government used for political repression.

French prosecutors opened a judicial investigation for alleged “complicity in acts of torture and enforced disappearances.”