UK

Tony Blair Backs Egypt's Military Government Despite Human Rights Crackdown

30/01/2014 15:36 GMT | Updated 30/01/2014 15:59 GMT
Sean Dempsey/PA Wire
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is interviewed by political journalist John Rentoul to mark the one-hundredth Mile End group at Queen Mary University of London.

Tony Blair has thrown his weight behind Egypt's government, despite it being blamed for a bloody crackdown on dissidents.

Journalists have been imprisoned by the military administration of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which ousted elected president Mohammed Morsi in July.

Although the Morsi government was heavy criticised and branded authoritarian, its replacement has been blamed for a violent crackdown on Morsi supporters and curbs on free speech, The Guardian reports.

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During a visit to Egypt, Blair said the army's intervention had been "at the will of the people" and urged people to support the government.

Egypt was "an ancient civilization, a great people, great energy and determination," The Independent reported him saying.

He went on: "In my view, it’s important to see this region, in all its different parts, as one picture. Therefore, my conclusion is, we should support those people in the region who want the open-minded society and the modern economy. That means we support the government here in Egypt."

Turning to the military coup, he said: "This is what I say to my colleagues in the West: the fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress.

"The army have intervened, at the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage of its development, which should be democratic, we should be supporting the new government in doing that."

After Egypt's former authoritarian leader, Hosni Mubarak, was forced out in the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood won power, only to be ousted in July following widespread protests and a military coup.

A brutal crackdown on Morsi supporters followed, including the shooting of protesters in a sit-in at a Cairo mosque.

A new constitution to replace the one put in place by the Muslim Brotherhood was backed by 98% of voters in a referendum earlier this month, although the Brotherhood dismissed the poll as a "farce".

Blair is on the record backing Mubarak.

The latest comments were made in a television interview on Thursday morning, The Guardian reported.

Blair said it was "fundamental" that the new government succeeded, and that "we give it support in bringing in this new era for the people of Egypt."

He added "..you know we can debate the past and it’s probably not very fruitful to do so, but right now I think it’s important the whole of the international community gets behind the leadership here and helps."