June 18, 2015 / 1:12 PM / 2 years ago

Britain defends invite to Egypt's Sisi after Mursi death sentence

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government on Thursday defended its plan to invite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to visit, saying it was important to engage with countries and to raise “matters of concern”.

Egypt’s state news agency said on Wednesday Prime Minister David Cameron had invited Sisi to visit, a day after a Cairo court sentenced former president Mohamed Mursi to death, drawing international criticism.

Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was sentenced as part of a crackdown launched after then army chief Sisi stripped Mursi of power in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

A spokeswoman for Cameron said on Thursday the British government was looking at the possibility of Sisi holding talks in London with Cameron “at some point later this year”.

Asked whether London’s invitation was controversial given Sisi’s human rights record and the Mursi ruling, she told reporters:

”The prime minister has talked before about how it is important that we engage with countries where there are issues which are important to the UK’s national interests and how we can work together on them.

“When we engage with these countries we can raise matters of concern and no issues are off the table.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said separately that the British government was “deeply concerned” by the sentencing of Mursi and others, noting the sentences were appealable.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Andrew Roche

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