A locally employed staff member of the United States Embassy in Cairo has been detained since 25 January, according to Embassy Spokesman Mofid Deak. Deak said the detained staff member, identified by news reports as Ahmed Aleiba, has not faced any official charges during the three weeks of his detention “as far as we understand.” The embassy has been in touch with the Egyptian government to request additional information about the case.
Spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Badr Abdelatty confirmed that the detained employee is an Egyptian who will be treated according to Egyptian laws. Ahmed Al-Rakeeb, spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office, said he has no information about the employee’s detention and questioned whether there was “any truth to the news regarding his detention.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Aleiba is being investigated for taking part in an illegal demonstration and for “communicating with an outlawed group,” citing an unnamed Egyptian government official.
During a press briefing for the US Department of State on Wednesday, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters the US is not aware of the reason for Aleiba’s detention. She nevertheless added that “on-the-ground” employees at the US embassy in Cairo have been in contact with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other groups.
On 25 December, interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi’s cabinet listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. Harf said that the US has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.
Abdelatty said he has “no comment whatsoever” regarding the US State Department’s stance on the Muslim Brotherhood. He added that upon the listing of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, the foreign ministry’s priority was to notify Arab countries about the decision.
The notification was in line with the 1998 Arab Convention on Suppression of Terrorism. The convention, signed by 17 Arab states, mandates that all signatory states engage in preventive measures, measures of suppression, exchange of information and expertise and investigation in order to combat terrorism in the Arab world.
Harf denied that the US is dictating what the future government in Egypt “should look like,” adding that the US is mainly concerned about such government being inclusive. “We have been very clear in Egypt that we will work with all sides and all parties to help move an inclusive process forward,” Harf said. “We will continue talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as part of our broad outreach to the different parties and groups there.”
Abdelatty said that dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood is a matter which “entirely concerns” the American side.
Tension between Egypt and the US increased after the US State Department announced on 9 October that it would halt the delivery of large-scale military systems and cash assistance to Egypt’s government, pending “credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections”. The US has also been critical of the violence that has gripped Egypt since the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013.