By Humaira Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Egypt lost an additional $75 million in U.S. military aid after a top Democratic U.S. senator suspended the funding over concerns about Cairo’s human rights record, including the detention of political prisoners.
Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, rejected the assessment offered by the State Department to justify the aid, which was subject to conditions under a law passed by Congress last year. The commission has jurisdiction over spending legislation including US financial aid to Egypt.
“We must take this law seriously because the situation facing political prisoners in Egypt is deplorable,” Leahy told Reuters in a statement.
“We cannot ignore the law for other considerations of politics. We all have a responsibility to respect the law and defend the fair trial rights of defendants, whether here or in Egypt,” Leahy said.
Conditions set by Congress require Egypt to “make clear and consistent progress” in releasing political prisoners and providing due process for detainees.
The United States allocates about $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt annually. Many of them do not have conditions attached. But the State Department suspended $130 million in military aid to Egypt in September due to widespread rights concerns, but said it would allow another $75 million to be paid, citing progress the Egyptian government has made on political arrests and due process, including the release of About 500 people were released. political prisoners this year.
But Leahy objected. Talks between his office and the State Department failed to resolve the issue, and the $75 million in funding expired on September 30.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prominent rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have accused the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of perpetrating widespread abuses such as torture and holding tens of thousands of political prisoners.
Sisi denied that Egypt was holding political prisoners. He also said that stability and security are fundamental to Egypt and that the authorities are working to advance rights by trying to provide basic needs such as jobs and housing.
Analysts said Western powers are reluctant to take serious action against a strategic ally, in Egypt, which has acted as a mediator in long-running issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and also controls the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes. .
US officials described the US relationship with Egypt as complex. The most populous Arab country is a vital ally, and Washington remains committed to its support for what US officials call “legitimate defense needs.”