The US withholds $85 million in military aid to Egypt due to insufficient political prisoner releases.
A US Senator has called for the withholding of an additional $235 million until Egypt’s human rights and democracy record improves.
Egypt’s President has denied the accusations while US Congress adds new human rights requirements to aid.
Due to Cairo’s inability to release an adequate amount of political prisoners, the United States has chosen to withhold $85 million in military aid to Egypt. A US senator on Wednesday urged the US to withhold $235 million more.
The $235 million decision was expected shortly, according to two additional sources with knowledge of the situation, and the $85 million was being held back.
This is according to a report in the American news platform Reuters, which noted that neither the State Department nor the Egyptian embassy immediately responded to requests for comment.
“The administration rightly decided to withhold that first tranche – $85 million tied to the release of political prisoners – because there’s just no question there has not been enough progress,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “I would urge the administration to finish the job and withhold the full $320 million … until Egypt’s human rights and democracy record improves,” the senator added.
Rights organizations have long charged Egypt’s administration, led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with extensive violations of human rights, including torture and enforced disappearances.
The Egyptian president has in the past denied that there are political prisoners in Egypt, arguing that stability and security are crucial and that the government works to uphold rights by attempting to satisfy necessities like housing and employment.
The North African country has received roughly $1.3 billion in foreign military funds annually for decades now, in order to purchase weapons systems and services from American defense enterprises. The 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel is primarily responsible for this help.
The U.S. Congress over the last decade has added requirements pertaining to human rights to specific funding.
A $85 million grant from the United States is subject to Egypt “making clear and consistent progress in releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process of law, and preventing the intimidation and harassment of American citizens.”
The executive branch is not permitted to waive these requirements. If Egypt complies with the standards for democracy and human rights, another $235 million will be made available. However, if the executive branch certifies to Congress that doing so is in the interests of U.S. national security, these restrictions may be waived.
Another hole exists in the $235 million, which Egypt may get regardless of whether it is used for “counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation programs.”