U.S. seeks answers over arrest of embassy employee in Egypt
February 13th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

U.S. seeks answers over arrest of embassy employee in Egypt

By Elise Labott

Authorities have detained an Egyptian employee of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, State Department officials and Egyptian media reports said, a move likely to further strain already tense relations.

 
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, confirmed reports the employee in the embassy's political section was detained on January 25 and has been held without charges since.


Another senior State Department official confirmed the employee as Ahmed Alaiba.

 
Egyptian media reports cited anonymous Egyptian officials saying Alaiba was transferred to the custody of Egypt's domestic spy service after it was discovered he was a liaison between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood, and took part in riots against the military's ouster of President Mohammed Morsy.

 
Harf said Alaiba was involved in connecting American diplomats to various political actors in Egypt, but said the Egyptians have not said whether Alaiba was connected to those contacts. She said Washington has asked for more information.

 
"What we said to the government of Egypt is that they need to tell us, and more importantly, make public ... not through anonymous sources, but make public very clearly why he was arrested and is being held," Harf said.

 
As a local employee, Alaiba does not get diplomatic immunity. But his arrest, made on the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, is prompting fears of pressure on diplomats and journalists who continue to have contact with the Islamist opposition, which the government has outlawed as a terrorist group.

 
The military backed Egyptian government arrested much of the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership after deposing President Morsy last July.

 
Since declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization in December, the government has cracked down on journalists who have communications with the group, filing charges against 20 journalists for conspiring with the Brotherhood to spread false reports about civil strife in Egypt.

 
The State Department has criticized what it called a concerted campaign to intimidate the media.

 
Award-winning British journalist Sue Turton was one of the eight Al-Jazeera journalists accused of aiding and abetting terrorist groups. She and her fellow colleagues have embarked on a campaign to free three al- Jazeera journalists detained since late December.

 
"The authorities really want to silence anyone who is not towing the government line," Turton told CNN.

 
Alaiba's arrest will likely complicate already strained ties between the United States and Egypt, which have worsened since Morsy's ouster.

 
The United States has temporarily withheld about third of its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, after the military backed government killed hundreds of pro-Morsy supporters demonstrating against his ouster.

 
Many Egyptians have viewed the move as tacit U.S. support for keeping the Muslim Brotherhood in power.

 
Harf said the United States did not consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and believed it should be included in the Egyptian political process.

 
"We will continue talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as part of our broad outreach to the different parties and groups there," Harf said.

 
Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sissi is in Russia on an official visit aimed at strengthening security ties with Moscow. Sissi is widely expected to run for President this spring.

 
Harf played down reports of a deal in which Russia would provide Egypt with about $2 billion in weapons.

 
"Egypt is free to pursue relationships with other countries. It doesn't impact our shared interests," Harf said. "Obviously each country brings unique capabilities and pieces of the pie, so to speak, to relationships, bilateral relationships with Egypt and with other countries."

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  28. Nodhel

    You spread your bed hard you lay in it hard. May be if the US would stop supporting all form of terrorism, this wouldn't have happen, and it will continue to happen until the US recognize that an alleged supporter of terrorists, categorized by US should be the same as categorize as others whether they are dictators or democratic leaders!. This one sided system must stop. your terrorist should be the next man terrorist. there should be no difference!. We should not brand people just because they don't support us, and then protect the same terrorist because they support us. We should see all terrorist as terrorist no matter where they are.

    February 15, 2014 at 11:44 am | Reply
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  30. Mark

    As long as the current government is in power and the military controls Egypt, that country will never have "tension" with the US or replace the US with Russia or anyone else. It's all a sham, including the US's so called stand for rights and freedoms and social justice. American corporations and Israeli lobbyists (AIPAC) and their allies in the American government will trample over any nation's peoples rights or democratic hopes in a heartbeat to ensure that their agendas are implemented. The only people that can save the world from these agendas are the American people. They need to wake up and recognize what it is the american government, corporations, and certain lobbyists are doing and put an end to it. Voting is one way but they also need to have mass demonstrations against this and make demands.

    February 14, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  31. Mark

    AIPAC

    February 14, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  32. Azza Radwan Sedky

    If an embassy, say the Egyptian one, in the US, contacts, communicates, or talks to members of Al Qaeda, would it be acceptable by the US Government? I don't think so. And this is exactly what the US is doing in Egypt. It is contacting the Muslim Brotherhood, which was deemed a terrorist group, such as Al Qaeda. And yet the US sees nothing wrong in doing so. As for the word liaise, one liaises between two sides that want to be connected. Egyptian authorities have not been contacted regarding wanting the US to work between it and the MB.
    No only so, but it also risks the life of a local staffer who has no immunity. I find it appalling.

    February 14, 2014 at 8:37 am | Reply
    • James

      The muslim brotherhood is not alqaida. The US goverrnment does not recognize the muslim brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The real comparison is would the US government allow a foreign nation to communicate with one of the US political parties that oppose the current government (i.e. republicans). And the answer is yes, it is legal and fine to do so. Terrorism in Egypt is the terrorism by the police force that was running over protesters as we say on TV and the systematic killing and imprisonment of protestors and reporters against the government.

      February 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Reply

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