Egypt says US scholar barred over visa issue

Egypt said Sunday the reason it had barred US scholar and prominent regime critic Michele Dunne from entering the country a day earlier was because she did not have a proper visa.

Dunne, who arrived at Cairo airport early Saturday, was later put on a plane to Frankfurt.

The foreign ministry said Dunne had applied for a non-tourist visa at the Egyptian embassy in Washington "but then withdrew her passport," suggesting the former diplomat arrived in Cairo seeking to enter on a tourist visa, with tourism not the purpose of her visit.

Foreigners crowd the entrance to Cairo's International Airport on February 3, 2011

Foreigners crowd the entrance to Cairo's International Airport on February 3, 2011 ©Michel Moutot (AFP/File)

Dunne was to attend a panel discussion at a conference organised by a pro-government group in Cairo.

"Some Egyptians complain I don't list enough to pro govt views. When I accept invite to conf of pro govt group they deny me entry. Go figure," she said on Twitter Saturday, suggesting that the decision to bar her was political.

The authorities expressed surprise at her remarks.

"The consular department was surprised by the US scholar's allegations ... and wondered if the United States allows foreign nationals to enter its territory without prior visa from US embassies abroad," the ministry said.

In August, authorities blocked top Human Rights Watch officials at the airport when they arrived to release a report on a government crackdown targeting supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

HRW said at that time that its activists were stopped due to "security reasons".

Morsi was ousted last year by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

His overthrow was followed by a brutal government crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds dead and thousands imprisoned.

The crackdown triggered widespread international outrage, with US President Barack Obama leading the criticism.

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