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France protests after Egypt expels Catholic daily's correspondent

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets France's Fran├žois Hollande in Cairo in April. Reuters/The Egyptian Presidency/Handout

France has expressed "deep regret" over Egypt's expulsion of the correspondent of Catholic daily La Croix and RTL radio. Rémy Piglialo said that he was detained at Cairo on return from holiday in France and put on a plane without any reason being given. La Croix accused Egyptian secret services of being behind the move.


"France deeply regrets this decision by the Egyptian authorities," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, Romain Nadal said on Wednesday. "It defends freedom of expression and the freedom of the press everywhere in the world."

Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault raised the question with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Choukri, on Tuesday, he said.

Pigaglio, who has been working in Egypt for nearly two years, was detained by airport security on arrival at Cairo on Monday and had his passport and mobile phone taken off him, preventing him from speaking to the French embassy for several hours.

But he was not questioned or mistreated, he said in a statement carried by La Croix, and did not know why he has been thrown out of the country.

"It appears that Egypt's intelligence service was behind the decision," La Croix's publication director Guillaume Goober told the AFP news agency.

Press freedom campaigners Reporters Without Borders said it was "very disturbed" by the move.

“We urge the authorities to explain why this journalist was denied entry,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Given the circumstances, everything suggests that this was designed to intimidate all the foreign correspondents based in Cairo. It is a very worrying signal for the foreign media, to say the least.”

Sisi accused of repression

Earlier this month the Egyptian journalists' union accused the government of declaring war on press freedom.

President Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in 2013, faces growing criticism of his repression under his rule.

On a visit to Cairo in mid-April during which he signed arms deals worth over a billion euros, French President François Hollande raised the cases of French citizen Eric Lang and Italian Giulio Regeni with Sisi and told him human rights were "a way to fight terrorism".

Lang was arrested and killed while in detention, with the police blaming his fellow inmates for his death.

Regeni, a Cambridge PhD student researching independent trade unions, was kidnapped in January and found dead nine days later bearing marks of torture.

Italy has accused the Egyptian secret services of being responsible, a charge the Egyptian government denies.

Amnesty International accused nearly half of the European Union's members of fuelling killings and torture among other abuses in Egypt through arms exports in a report issued on Wednesday.