The speaker of Egypt’s parliament on Wednesday clarified his praise of Adolf Hitler a day earlier to justify spending on government construction projects.
At the opening session of parliament Tuesday, Ali Abdel Aal implored lawmakers to back Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi amid anti-government protests. According to the Middle East Eye news site, Aal asked lawmakers to observe a minute of silence as a sign of support for Sissi’s “project to build the modern Egyptian state.”
“Hitler had his mistakes, but what allowed him to expand eastward and westward was that he created a strong infrastructure for the German state that remains the source of its leading position in the First World,” Aal was quoted saying.
After the remarks were reported on, Aal said Wednesday that Hitler “has committed a lot of crimes” and that his praise was of German civilization and development, not the Nazi leader.
“Everybody is aware of what Adolf Hitler has done to humanity; hence no one with the minimum level of knowledge can praise him for his actions,” Aal said during a parliamentary session, Egypt Today reported.
He added: “No country can develop without a strong infrastructure, and this is the only thing I was referring to in my statements.”
Aal’s comments came on the heels of rare displays of public dissent in Egypt over corruption allegations leveled by an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile against the president and the military.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights said early Thursday that 2,661 people have been arrested and questioned by prosecutors over the latest protests. The detainees have been accused of links to the Muslim Brotherhood, spreading false news, misusing social media and engaging in a non-authorized protest, according to ECESR Facebook page.
Meanwhile, two senior security officials said more than 400 people were recently freed after it was proven that they had no links to the outlawed group. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with reporters.
However, rights lawyer Khaled el-Masry refuted this figure, saying only dozens, mostly juveniles, were released.
The scattered protests were a startling, if brief sign of popular discontent. Egypt has witnessed an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since Sissi came to power in 2014, with the jailing of Islamists as well as secular activists, while his government has put through austerity measures badly hitting the country’s poor and middle classes.
In his first remarks following the protests, Sissi said earlier this week he would do more to protect poor and middle-class Egyptians. Also, Aal said that political reforms were underway.