WASHINGTON (AP) — A veteran senator’s objections to Egypt’s record of human rights, including the detention of an estimated 60,000 political prisoners, have forced the Biden administration to cut a symbolically significant $75 million in its budget. planned annual military aid to that country.
Senate President Appropriations Patrick Leahy, the responsible senator, said in a statement Monday that it is important that U.S. governments do not allow other policy interests to override the Congress-imposed focus on Egypt’s poor record on security. putting aside human rights, “because the situation facing political prisoners in Egypt is deplorable. ”
The US annually provides more than $1 billion in military aid to Egypt, which it considers a regionally important ally of the US and Israel. That’s despite President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s record of human rights, including what human rights groups say about the killing, imprisonment and torture of critics of the Egyptian government.
Congress in recent years has made the US payment of $300 million of that aid conditional on the Egyptian government’s progress on rights, although the State Department can and often will ignore that demand. Congressional conditioning of some of Egypt’s security assistance provides an annual public test of US governments’ trade-offs between strategic interests and human rights.
The Biden administration said last month it planned to give a cut, $170 million, of that $300 million. It cited Egypt’s release of 500 political prisoners. Rights advocates and relatives of imprisoned activists called Egypt’s release a sign.
Leahy objected to the government’s decision, urging the state to either clarify its standards on the matter or give the money as scholarships to Egyptian students or as military aid to Ukraine, Leahy spokesman David Carle said. Funding remained at an impasse until it reached a September 30 spending deadline and expired.
Egyptian news organization Mada Masr first reported the partial blocking of funding by a senator she did not identify. Reuters first reported that it was Leahy.
In a statement Monday, the State Department said that “we will continue to work closely with Congress as we engage with the Egyptian government on human rights issues and look for tangible steps to address government and congressional concerns.”
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