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US citizen’s torture suit to test Egypt relations under Biden

The Joe Biden administration may take a position on the immunity of Egypt’s former prime minister in a lawsuit brought by an American human rights activist.
Egypt's interim prime minister Hazem Beblawi gives an interview to a journalist from the Agence France-Presse at his office in Cairo on November 24, 2013 as Egypt's interim president approved a controversial law regulating demonstrations. "It is not a law that limits the right to demonstrate, but it aims at protecting the right of protesters," Beblawi said. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA        (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

A lawsuit accusing Egypt’s former prime minister of overseeing the torture of an American citizen could test President Joe Biden’s pledge to hold foreign governments accountable for their human rights failings.

The US District Court in the District of Columbia will soon decide whether Hazem el-Beblawi, Egypt's interim premier from 2013 to 2014, holds diplomatic immunity status that would shield him from a federal lawsuit filed in June by activist Mohamed Soltan. The suit asserts that Beblawi directed and monitored the “brutal, orchestrated regime of detention and torture” of Soltan, who was arrested after live-tweeting Egypt's violent crackdown on protesters in 2013. During his nearly 22-month imprisonment, Soltan says prison guards tortured him with a purposefully starved attack dog, seizure-inducing strobe lights, sleep deprivation and other forms of extreme physical and emotional abuse. 

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