US withholds $85 million in military aid to Egypt over political prisoners

The United States has decided to withhold $85 million in military aid earmarked for Egypt due to concerns about the country’s release of political prisoners.

Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the Democratic Party, called for an additional $235 million in aid to be blocked until Egypt’s human rights and democracy record improves.

Other sources familiar with the situation confirmed the withholding of $85 million and indicated that decisions regarding the remaining $235 million were expected soon.

Senator Murphy stated, “The administration made the right decision to block the first tranche, valued at approximately $85 million, because there is no doubt that not enough progress has been made regarding the release of political prisoners.” He continued, “I would urge the administration to finish the job and block the entire $320 million until Egypt’s human rights and democracy record improves.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has consistently denied the presence of political prisoners in Egypt.

For decades, the United States has provided foreign military aid to Egypt, amounting to approximately $1.3 billion annually, to purchase military systems and services from American defense providers. This aid is a significant outcome of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

In recent years, the US Congress has made some aid conditional on Egypt’s commitment to human rights.

Under US law, the $85 million in aid is subject to conditions that require Egypt to demonstrate “clear and sustained progress in releasing political prisoners, providing proper legal processes for detainees, and preventing the intimidation and harassment of American citizens.” These conditions are non-negotiable for the executive branch.

The remaining portion of the aid, approximately $235 million, is conditional on Egypt’s adherence to democracy and human rights requirements. However, the executive branch can waive this condition by certifying to Congress that it is in the interest of US national security.

There is another exception to the $235 million, as it can be provided to Egypt without regard to human rights conditions if designated for “counterterrorism, border security, and non-proliferation programs.”

Last year, Washington approved the full payment of $75 million, anticipating progress in political detention cases. It noted that progress had been made, including releasing around 500 individuals. The US administration also authorized the payment of an additional $95 million to Egypt for countering terrorism, border security, and preventing the spread of weapons.

As a result, the US provided $170 million of the total $300 million in military aid subject to human rights conditions last year. This means that $130 million was withheld, the same amount that had been withheld the previous year.

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