Senator blocks $75 million in US military aid to Egypt over rights issues

WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Egypt has missed out on an additional $75 million in U.S. military aid after a Democratic U.S. senator blocked funding over concerns about Cairo’s human rights record. man, including the detention of political prisoners.

Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, rejected an assessment proposed by the US State Department to justify the aid, which was conditional under a law passed by Congress on last year. The committee has jurisdiction over spending legislation, including US financial assistance to Egypt.

“We should take this law very seriously, because the situation facing political prisoners in Egypt is deplorable,” Leahy told Reuters in a statement.

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“We cannot neglect the law for other political considerations. We all have a responsibility to uphold the law and uphold the due process rights of defendants, whether here or in Egypt,” Leahy said.

The conditions set by Congress require Egypt to make “clear and steady progress” in releasing political prisoners and providing detainees with due process.

The United States allocates approximately $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year. Much of it comes with no strings attached. But the State Department withheld $130 million in military aid to Egypt in September over general rights concerns, but said it would authorize the payment of another $75 million, citing the progress by the Egyptian government on political detentions and due process, including the release of approximately 500 political detainees 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.

Major human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have accused Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi’s government of widespread abuses such as torture and detention of tens of thousands of political prisoners.

Sisi denied that Egypt holds political prisoners. He also said that stability and security are paramount for Egypt and that the authorities promote rights by trying to meet basic needs such as employment and housing.

Analysts said Western powers are reluctant to take serious action against a strategic ally, Egypt, which has mediated long-running issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and also controls the Suez Canal, Israel. one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. .

US officials have called the US relationship with Egypt complex. The most populous Arab country is a vital ally, and Washington remains committed to supporting it for what US officials call “legitimate defense needs.”

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Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis in Cairo, Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Will Dunham and Michelle Nichols

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