Government - US Aid Gives Boosts To Abusers, Say Critics
Human Rights campaigners are worried about Donald Trump's decision to release nearly US$200 Million in military aid to Egypt.
"This sends all of the wrong signals to the Egyptian generals that the rhetoric about human rights is merely lip service," says Mohamed Soltan, a US citizen who spent almost two years as a political prisoner in Egypt. "It is a green light to carry on with the repressive policies."
A year ago, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suspended the payment to Cairo because Egypt's human rights record didn't meet the standards imposed by Congress. But civil liberties and human rights have only regressed further since then; researchers say Egypt's security forces have continued to lock up groups wrongly labeled dissidents or terrorists, while the courts have handed down mass death sentences in cases widely criticized as politically motivated. Just last month, 75 people were sentenced to death for taking part in a sit-in. The government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is now said to be even more repressive than that of Hosni Mubarek.
"The Egyptian government has civil society by the throat, choking all criticism," said researcher Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. "We're close to the death of dissent," he added.
The military aid, a small sliver of the US$1.5 Billion Washington sends to Cairo, is intended for Egypt to use to buy defense equipment and training from the United States.
"Egypt is at the forefront in the fight against terrorism," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, "The military assistance is appreciated and is fundamental and crucial to enable us to continue to eradicate terrorism and radical ideologies from the region as a whole."
Mr. Soltan was shot, arrested, and jailed for tweeting at a demonstration in Cairo in 2013. He was released two years later after the Obama Administration intervened with Egypt.
"My release, among a few others, is proof the US has leverage over Egypt with regards to human rights policies," said Soltan, "The recent decision to release the withheld aid is a devastating blow to that influence."