Al Jazeera trial: El-Sissi won’t interfere
CAIRO: Egypt’s president said Tuesday the authorities will not interfere in the judiciary, as protests were staged worldwide in solidarity with Al-Jazeera journalists, including an Australian, whose jailing has sparked outrage.
The United States is leading calls for President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi to pardon the journalists convicted of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement and “spreading false news.”
A Cairo court sentenced award-winning Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy to seven years in jail on Monday, while producer Baher Mohamed was handed 10 years.
Eleven of 20 defendants who stood trial were given 10-year sentences in absentia, including one Dutch journalist and two British journalists. Those sentenced can appeal before the court of cassation.
El-Sissi said the authorities would not interfere in judicial matters.
“We have to respect judiciary rulings, and not comment them even if others don’t understand them,” he said in a televised speech.
A presidency official told AFP El-Sissi cannot legally do so until a final court ruling after any appeals.
Meanwhile, El-Sissi said Tuesday he will donate half of his personal wealth and half of his salary to help the country’s crippling economy, the improvement of which he said requires sacrifices from all Egyptians.
El-Sissi also said he asked the government to amend a newly drafted budget — the largest in Egypt’s history at $115 billion — because it had a deficit he said was unacceptable. The draft budget kept Egypt’s budget deficit hovering around 12 percent.
The budget had large sums dedicated to state subsidies on food and energy, as well as spending on pensions and social spending. El-Sissi said he asked his government to amend it, but didn’t specify what will be changed.
“I found the deficit increasing, bringing our debts up to ($282 billion) only because this is the budget that won’t stir public opinion,” he said. “I couldn’t approve it … How long can we continue to avoid confronting our challenges and problems?“
El-Sissi said Gulf aid to Egypt in the past months, estimated around $20 billion, won’t last.
“I am telling you, there must be real sacrifices from every Egyptian,” he said.
The monthly salary for the president is set at $6,000.
“This is too much for me. I am telling you I will do two things. I will only take half of this salary,” he said.
“There is something else I can do. I will give up half of what I own, included what I inherited from my father, for the sake of the country.”
He appealed to wealthy Egyptians to do same, saying a bank account he would oversee would go to help Egypt’s myriads of problems.
El-Sissi’s family is one of the best known makers of oriental-type furniture in Cairo’s old district.
El-Sissi also said he will not accept or be able to meet demands from different sectors for wage increases and better working conditions.