Italian journalist returns French award in protest against Sisi
85-year-old Corrado Augias received the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award of merit, in 2007.
However, in a letter addressed to the French ambassador to Italy and published by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Augias announced that he would “not share this honour with a head of state who has made himself an accomplice of criminals”.
Augias said he would personally hand in his medal to the French embassy in Rome on Tuesday.
The journalist was referring to the killing of Italian doctoral student Guilio Regeni in Cairo in 2016. Last week, Italian prosecutors charged four Egyptian security officers with Regeni’s murder.
French President Emmanuel Macron received Sisi in Paris last week, despite protests from human rights activists who pointed out that the Egyptian president had brutally repressed dissent and detained tens of thousands of government opponents.
Macron said at the time that he would not bring up human rights issues with Sisi and awarded him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
French officials tried to cover up this news and prevented media from attending the ceremony, but it later emerged when the Egyptian presidency published pictures.
A French diplomatic source later told the France 24 news channel that the award was “one of the traditional elements of state visits”.
In his letter to the French Ambassador, Augias said that he “understood the mechanics of diplomacy and business well” but that “the assassination of Giulio Regeni represents for us Italians a bloody wound, an affront”.
“I would have expected from President Macron a gesture of understanding, if not of fraternity, in the name of Europe that together we try so hard to build,” the veteran TV presenter added.
La Repubblica reported that Augias’s gesture of protest against Macron was greeted positively across Europe with the hashtag #Legion trending on Twitter.
French political journalist Edwy Plenel said that “France has disgraced this Legion of Honour" by giving it to Sisi and Roberto Fico, the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, called Augias’s gesture “commendable”.