Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sat down with Scott Pelley to make news on 60 Minutes and did when he confirmed his military was working with Israel against terrorists in North Sinai. But other questions, including jailing his opponents to maintain his regime and the massacre of 800 civilians by Egypt when he was Defense Minister were not the kind of news his government wanted broadcast. The 60 Minutes team was contacted by the Egyptian Ambassador shortly after and told the interview could not be aired. The interview will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, January 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
Asked if this cooperation with Israel was the closest ever between two enemies that once were at war, he responds, "That is correct…We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis." The Egyptians are battling an estimated 1,000 ISIS-affiliated terrorists on its Sinai peninsula that they have allowed the Israelis to attack by air.
El-Sisi became the country's Minister of Defense when Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood took power after the Arab Spring revolts. A year later, President Morsi was ousted by el-Sisi on live TV. As then-Minister of Defense, el-Sisi is blamed for the 2013 massacre of nearly 1,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who protested the coup. Asked if he gave the order, el-Sisi questioned Pelley's information and then said, "There were thousands of armed people in the sit-in for more than 40 days. We tried every peaceful means to disburse them." The government reported that just over a dozen guns were recovered among the thousands in the protest camp.
El-Sisi came to power on a wave of support from an Egyptian public dissatisfied with Morsi. But critics say El-Sisi became even more autocratic than any of his predecessors in Egypt's modern day history.
Human Rights Watch estimates el-Sisi, a former army general, is holding 60,000 political prisoners. "I don't know where they got that figure. I said there are no political prisoners in Egypt. Whenever there is a minority trying to impose their extremist ideology we have to intervene regardless of their numbers," he tells Pelley.
The U.S. State Department says killings and torture are carried out in el-Sisi's prisons today, just as they were before he took power. Pelley speaks with a former prisoner who was jailed for reporting false news while taking pictures of the 2013 massacre. Mohamed Soltan, an American citizen, recalls, "I was targeted because I had a camera. I had a phone and I was tweeting."
After almost two years in prison, the Obama Administration secured his release. Soltan says they used sleep deprivation and isolation to torture him. A strobe light was used to make him convulse. "Guards that were assigned to me…would pass razors under the doorstep and the officer doctors would say to me, 'Cut vertically, not horizontally so you can end it faster.'"