Egypt 'counter-terrorist' ally detains British man over 'headphone amplifier'

Egypt 'counter-terrorist' ally detains British man over 'headphone amplifier'
Even when putting the fact that Egyptian forces mistook a music device for a bomb, the international community is supporting Sisi on the basis of myths and logical fallacies
3 min read
06 Apr, 2017
Robert and Julie Lapham [Facebook]

Fifty-four-year-old Robert Lapham and his wife Julie were at the airport on the way back to the UK from a week-long break in Egypt to take advantage of diving facilities at the Marsa Alam resort town. They woke up expecting to arrive home by the end of the day, but instead they ended up enduring a three-day ordeal where Robert was in fear of his life; all because Egyptian airport security mistook his headphone amplifier for a bomb.

Robert and Julie knew that their flight from Egypt on 29 March was the first to implement the UK's ban on passengers carrying some electronics so they made sure they had stored their devices in their suitcases.

When Robert's headphone amplifier flagged up in the airport security scanner he showed security how it worked. Unconvinced the guards detained him for three days until state prosecutors finally realised that the device was a headphone jack and not a bomb.

Undeserving Sisi-exceptionalism

This isn't the first time foreign citizens have been held by Egyptian authorities, but as we saw from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's meeting with US President Donald Trump this week, many government's are still prepared to endorse his brutal regime.

Just one month before the incident, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson visited Egypt to loan Cairo $150 million, with no regard to the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

Although UK human rights groups urged Johnson to address Cairo's human rights abuses - which include mass arrests, death sentences and a crackdown on all forms of personal freedoms - Johnson stayed silent.

The Sisi government's tendency to detain the citizens of its Western supporters is nothing new. When Sisi first orchestrated his coup in the summer of 2013, the EU didn't outwardly condemn the overthrow of Egypt's first elected government.

How did Sisi pay the EU member states back? By detaining 17-year-old Irish teen Ibrahim Halawa and leaving his health to deteriorate in prison. Later they shook Europe again when Sisi's intelligence forces tortured cat-loving 28-year-old Italian PhD student Giulio Regini. With the exception of brief condemnations and disingenuous calls for justice, the EU remains a staunch backer of Sisi.

Counter-productive counter-terrorism

Putting aside the fact that Egyptian forces mistook a music device for a bomb, not only are EU member states supporting a regime that has shown no limits to its savagery, they are also supporting him on the basis of myths and logical fallacies.

The concept of supporting Sisi on the basis of his regime being a partner in the fight against terrorism in the region quickly becomes preposterous when you look at his counter-terrorist strategy.

Sisi's project to tackle the growth of terrorism is in fact fuelling terrorism. Rather than understanding the roots as to why residents on the troubled Sinai region - mainly Bedouins - are vulnerable to being recruited by terrorist organisations in the peninsula, the Egyptian military has continued to carry out forced displacements and cut them off from the rest of Egypt.

By perpetuating their conditions of poverty, neglecting their welfare and collectively treating them as terrorists, the Sisi regime is only helping IS grow.

What happened to Lapham should not be met with surprise, nor should it be treated as an isolated incident. Instead, the UK and the rest of the international community must realise that this incident is reflective of Sisi's Egypt and that endorsing his vicious and incompetent counter-terrorism strategy is both self-defeating and inhumane.