A longtime Democratic senator was needed to suspend arms shipments from the United States to Egypt. His name is Patrick Leahy, he’s 82 years old and he’s in his eighth term as a corporate representative in Vermont. Leahy, a few days ago, prevented Nashwa with $75 million (about 77 million euros) in US military aid in Cairo due to concerns about human rights conditions under the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Egypt receives about $1.3 billion annually in US military aid. Although there are no restrictions on a significant portion of the amount, the stake is subject to conditions based on a law passed by Congress in 2021. Last September, the US State Department authorized an additional $75 million payment, citing progress made by the Egyptians. government on political prisoners and due process, including the release of 500 detainees in 2022. But Senator Leahy, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, rejected the State Department’s assessment that justified military support.
The committee chaired by Leahy has jurisdiction over spending legislation, including US aid to Egypt. “We must take this law seriously, because the situation of political prisoners in Egypt is deplorable,” the Democratic senator explained. We cannot underestimate al-Qaeda because of other political considerations. We all have a responsibility to respect the law and defend the rights of defendants to a fair trial, both in the United States and in Egypt.”
Conditions set by Congress last year require that Egypt make “clear and consistent progress” in releasing political prisoners and ensuring detainees receive a fair trial. Talks between Leahy’s office and the State Department have not resolved the issue, with the $75 million loan expiring on September 30.
Since Sisi came to power in a military coup in 2013, there has been constant concern in Washington about the president’s treatment of his opponents. Human rights groups estimate that Egypt has about 60,000 political prisoners.
Hundreds of detainees died in pretrial detention, and humanitarian organizations claimed that medical negligence and poor condition led to many deaths. Egypt, according to a report by Amnesty International, sentenced at least 356 people to death in 2021, becoming the largest perpetrator of death sentences in the world. Sisi has always denied the existence of political prisoners in the country. He portrayed the repression as part of a war against terrorism.
Between 2013 and 2020, France was the number one exporter of arms to Egypt, followed by Russia and the United States. In 2016, the European Parliament called for the suspension of cooperation in security matters with Cairo. He called on the member states of the European Union to put an end to the “short-sighted and deceptive dealings with the Egyptian security forces.” However, the export of war materials continued as if nothing had happened. Maybe they need someone like Leahy in Brussels.
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