US senator to block aid following Egypt death sentences

Chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, Patrick Leahy, said on Tuesday that he would not approve the sending of aid to the Egyptian military following the mass death sentence issued on Monday by a criminal court in Minya against 683 people.

“I’m not prepared to sign off on the delivery of additional aid for the Egyptian military. I’m not prepared to do that until we see convincing evidence the government is committed to the rule of law,” Leahy said in a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

This is the second mass death sentence to be issued from the same Minya court in cases relating to assault on police stations and the killing of policemen. In an earlier case, 529 people were sentenced to death, and 37 of the sentences were upheld on Monday, while the remainder were downgraded to life sentences.

The ruling comes amid a severe crackdown that began against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and spread across society, leading to thousands of arrests and violations of the rights of assembly and expression.

The pentagon announced last week that it would relax its hold on military aid to Egypt, which has been imposed since the bloody dispersal of protests in August, and would deliver 10 Apache helicopters and US$650 million in aid to the Egyptian military. Although Leahy announced he would block the monetary aid, the Apaches are not subject to legislative approval, according to congressional aids that spoke to Reuters.

The US has been conflicted about its military aid to Egypt — amounting to $1.3 billion a year — since the military forced former President Mohamed Morsi from power last July. A US law bans the delivery of aid to governments that came to power through a military coup.

Obama expressed concern over the removal of Morsi, but stopped short of calling it a coup. After security forces violently dispersed pro-Morsi sit-ins last August, killing over 1000 people in one day, the US administration put a hold on some of its military aid to Egypt.

However, last week the administration’s position seemed to be turning as the Pentagon restored some of its aid.

Secretary of State John Kerry had a meeting on Tuesday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in Washington and made it clear the United States was “deeply disturbed” by recent events, according to Reuters.

Fahmy, who is currently on a diplomatic visit to the US, stressed the strength of the long-term relationship between the two countries in a seminar on Tuesday, saying that it is akin to “a marriage and not a fling.”


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