The Italians returned the French Legion Awards after El-Sissi became one

ROME (AP) – Two prominent Italian intellectuals announced on Monday that they were opposing the French President’s Legion of Honor Awards, protesting that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was accused of violating his government’s human rights Regardless, the award was given.

Corrado Augias, a long-time journalist for La Repubblica and European MP for Italy’s center-left, returned his award to the French embassy on Monday. Giovanna Mlandari, a former Italian culture minister and president of Rome’s Maxxi Contemporary Art Museum, announced that he would follow suit.

Both cited Egypt’s role in the abduction, torture and murder of an Italian doctoral research student in Cairo in 2016, as well as other human rights violations of the regime.

French President Emmanuel Macron laid the red carpet for a two-day visit to El-Sissi last week and awarded him the highest French honor during the closed-door ceremony 7 which became public only after Egyptian presidential photos were published .

Also last week, prosecutors in Rome formally placed four high-level members of the Egyptian security forces to investigate the death of Giulio Regeni, whose strained relations between Rome and Cairo in 2016 and Italy’s human rights community There were strained relationships.

Speaking outside the French embassy, ​​Augias said he returned his 2007 award out of “a sense of outrage”, noting that the award was given to El-Sissi at the same time that the Rome prosecutor details the torture The Parliamentary Committee had to suffer.

“The two things were very strong together,” he told reporters. “I can’t avoid reacting.”

Mandari said in a Facebook post on Monday that she would also return the honor she received in 2003, saying it is sad but necessary to clarify that “honor” should mean something.

“I hope this gesture can help open up a clear and friendly confrontation in our two countries, on which those values ​​should be, which we defend, strengthen and continue to ‘honor’ in a democratic Europe and a globalized world.” Want to keep. ” .

Al-Sisi’s state visit sparked protests by human rights activists, stating that France was welcoming al-Sisi despite disagreements in Egypt’s modern history. At the time, it was not known that Macron had awarded El-Sissi the highest honor of the Legion of Honor Order of Merit, Grand-Crix or Grand-Cross.

The award ceremony was held without press before dinner at the सीlysée Rashtrapati Bhavan in Paris. The event was not listed in Macron’s official agenda.

The French president said that such ceremonies are usually part of the protocol during state visits.

France’s Ambassador to Italy Christian Masset said he respected Augias and defended the government’s human rights record.

Augius tweeted after returning his award, “France is at the forefront of human rights and makes no compromises.” “During President Al-Sisi’s visit to Paris, many matters were discussed in the most appropriate and efficient manner.”

France’s war heroes, writers, artists and businessmen have been given the honor of the army. But it has been given to leaders with dubious human rights records, including Syrian President Bashar Assad (although he returned it in 2018) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France has on this occasion snatched the honor of those involved in the #MeToo sexual misconduct allegations against her, including Harvey Weinstein in 2017.

During the visit, France and Egypt signed contracts for French development assistance and hospital and transport cooperation.

In his news conference with El-Sissi, Macron vindicated such cooperation and refused to make it conditional on human rights issues, stating that Egypt is France’s key partner in the fight against extremism.

“It would be ineffective in the context of human rights and contradictory in the fight against terrorism – so I will not do that,” he said.


Sylvie Corbett contributed from Paris.


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