Eyebrows raised after German opera ball honours Egyptian president


Dresden's famous Semperoper opera house has handed Egypt's authoritarian president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, its coveted Order of St George – raising questions and criticism, including from the German city's mayor.

"It is inconceivable for me how this honour has come about and which criteria were followed," Mayor Dirk Hilbert said, according to the town hall spokesman.

Sisi is set to attend the glitzy ball in the Semperoper building on 7 February.

Hilbert has demanded a list of other honorary guests and prizewinners set to attend this year's event.

"I am reserving the right to decide whether I will appear officially in the programme as I have done before, and whether I will take part in the ball with my guests," the mayor said.

The Dresden Semperoper Ball awarded Sisi the 18-carat Order of St George in Cairo on Sunday, defying public criticism.

Sisi took office in 2014, a year after leading the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president.

Sisi has repeatedly warned Egyptians against protesting, saying this could lead to chaos. He has led a massive crackdown on dissent, with thousands of Islamist and secular opponents behind the bars.

Hans-Joachim Frey, head of the association that organises the annual Semperoper Ball, defended the accolade for Sisi by saying that the event is a purely cultural one and is not political. He argued that Sisi had contributed to Egypt's stability while promoting culture and education.    (dpa)

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