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Congress amps up pressure to free Americans jailed in Egypt

House lawmakers are demanding that the Donald Trump administration to take a firmer stance on Cairo’s human rights record.
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) asks EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt a question as he testifies before the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the 2019 Fiscal Year EPA budget at the Capitol on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The focus of nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues, Pruitt was on the Hill to testify about his agency's FY2019 budget proposal. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Key House lawmakers of both parties are pressing the Donald Trump administration to demand that Egypt release detained US citizens and end its crackdown on civil society in a sign that the incoming Congress is serious about taking Cairo to task over its checkered human rights record.

More than 30 lawmakers so far have signed onto to the Dear Colleague letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spearheaded by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Middle East panel, and panel chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. Among the signatories to date is incoming House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., raising the possibility that the annual $1.3 billion US military aid package to Egypt might be used as leverage.

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