Skip to main content

Intel: Congress urges Egypt’s president to release political prisoners

More than 50 US members of the US Congress called for Egyptian journalists, lawyers and rights activists to be released in a letter addressed directly to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
GettyImages-1147419619.jpg

More than 50 members of the US Congress signed a letter urging Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to release imprisoned human rights and political activists, lawyers, journalists and other prisoners of conscience.

The letter, signed by Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), specifically calls on Sisi to release activists Alaa Abdel Fattah and his sister Sanaa Seif, as well as political activist Ramy Shaath and human rights lawyer and former parliamentarian Zyad el-Elaimi.

US lawmakers also named more than a dozen other Egyptians behind bars for human rights and political activities, as well as US-Egyptian citizens who remain in prison in Egypt despite the release of two Americans in the past year.

The letter urges Sisi to stop the Egyptian government’s use of indefinite pre-trial detention except in cases of “last resort.”

“Since assuming the presidency in 2014, Sisi has presided over systematic repression in Egypt, codifying new legal frameworks to criminalize internationally protected freedoms, including the freedom of association or assembly,” read a statement by Rep. Khanna’s office.

Why it matters:  The letter marks the first time so many lawmakers are addressing Sisi directly in calling for the release of Egyptian political prisoners. But it falls short of threatening to condition US military assistance to Egypt on Sisi’s human rights record.

The Donald Trump administration pushed Egypt’s regime earlier this year for the release of imprisoned American citizens, but at least two remain behind bars. New York City taxi driver Mustafa Kassem died in January in an Egyptian prison following hunger strikes and pleas to Trump.

Egypt’s regime has even been accused of killing detainees in staged firefights between security forces and alleged terrorists as a way to execute them.

The former US administration chose to maintain its partnership with the Sisi regime after it massacred as many as a thousand peaceful protesters at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo in 2013 — Trump has taken an overly permissive attitude toward Sisi’s repression.

Trump has called Sisi “my favorite dictator” and “a fantastic guy.” CNN reported last week that the Mueller investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election looked into whether an Egyptian bank had transferred $10 million to Trump’s campaign, although the case was shut down due to lack of evidence.

The report has raised renewed questions about Trump’s relationship with Egypt’s dictator ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.

What’s next:  The lawmakers’ letter may be a bellwether for a potential Joe Biden presidential administration’s future tone toward the regime in Cairo.

But even if a potential Biden administration would be more ideologically predisposed to conditioning some aid to Egypt, it will be discouraged from doing so by strategic pressures, as Egypt is increasingly looking to Russia to fulfill its desire for new military hardware.

Know more:  Egypt’s regime is still withholding the bodies of prisoners executed on terror charges, Al-Monitor’s correspondent in Egypt reports.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial