Intel: How pressure is mounting on Egypt to release detained Americans

p

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on a US citizen that Cairo has detained for six years. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus noted that Pompeo pressed Shoukry Monday on “concerns over press freedom, human rights and Americans detained in Egypt, including Moustafa Kassem.”

Shoukry is in Washington this week for Treasury Department-led talks that seek to bridge Egypt’s disputes with Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Why it matters: The Donald Trump administration has been hesitant to push close US allies such as Egypt on human rights issues. At the same time, Trump has eagerly sought to secure the release of detained Americans abroad. Just last week Trump eagerly touted a prisoner swap with Iran that secured the release of US citizen Xiyue Wang, a Princeton scholar.

Pompeo’s focus on Kassem comes as Congress is tightening the pressure on Egypt to release US prisoners. The Senate foreign aid panel added language to the report accompanying its annual spending bill in September that would ban Egyptian, Saudi and Turkish officials from entering the United States if they have been “involved in the wrongful detention” of US citizens or locally employed staff at US diplomatic missions.

The Senate’s foreign aid spending bill also requires Pompeo to “consider the cases” of Kassem and two other prisoners detained by Cairo before issuing a national security waiver that would release some $300 million of Egypt’s annual $1.3 billion in military aid.

What’s next: Egypt currently holds approximately 20 US citizens, and it remains unclear whether Pompeo will take more concrete action to free Kassem and the other detainees beyond raising the issue in meetings with Shoukry.

Know more: Read congressional correspondent Bryant Harris’ report on the pending legislation designed to secure the release of US prisoners from Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:

  • The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
  • Archived articles
  • Exclusive events
  • The Week in Review
  • Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly
Found in: sameh shoukry, egyptian government, mike pompeo, detainees, us aid, us-egyptian relations

Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor's congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. On Twitter: @brykharris_ALM, Email: bharris@al-monitor.com.

Next for you
x

The website uses cookies and similar technologies to track browsing behavior for adapting the website to the user, for delivering our services, for market research, and for advertising. Detailed information, including the right to withdraw consent, can be found in our Privacy Policy. To view our Privacy Policy in full, click here. By using our site, you agree to these terms.

Accept