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Egypt's Sisi comes under fire from US Senators ahead of meeting with Trump

US President Donald Trump meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) at the White House in Washington, US on April 3 2017. ( Presidency of Egypt / Handout - Anadolu Agency )
US President Donald Trump meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) at the White House in Washington, US on 3 April 2017 [Presidency of Egypt/ Anadolu Agency]

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has come under fire from US senators as President Donald Trump rolls out the red carpet for a working lunch today. The two leaders are expected to meet but Al-Sisi's visit has prompted a backlash from members.

Specifically, the senators requested Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to express strong concern over the ongoing detention of American citizens by the Egyptian government, Egypt's deepening relationship with the Kremlin, including the reported purchase of Russian fighter jets, and proposed changes to the constitution seen as a further erosion of political rights and worsening human rights abuse in recent years.

Their concerns were raised in a letter yesterday by members of the US Foreign Relations Committee. Seventeen members of the bipartisan group urged Pompeo to address what they described were "three pressing issues."

Warning of the changes to the constitution the senators said: "If adopted, proposed amendments to Egypt's constitution that the parliament is currently considering would erode the independence of Egypt's judiciary, giving President Sisi the power to hand-select the heads of judicial bodies, and may ultimately allow [him] to extend his rule until 2034."

READ: Trump, Egypt's Sisi to discuss security during White House visit

The letter, seen by MEMO, read: "We urge you to ask President Sisi to reconsider his support for these amendments, the fast-tracked process through which they are being considered, and uphold democratic governance, including the independence of the judiciary. We also hope you will stress the importance of promoting a free and transparent political process and stress the important role of human rights and civil society in building a more resilient and prosperous country."

Raising their concerns over what they described as the "the erosion of political and human rights" in Egypt the Senators encouraged Pompeo to demand the release of more than a dozen Americans.

It is unacceptable for a foreign government to unjustly detain American citizens and deny them fundamental legal and political rights.

The senators took serious issue over Egypt's recent $2 billion contract to purchase 20 Su-35 aircraft from Russia. "As the United States provides significant military assistance to Egypt, we are concerned about their deepening relationship with Russia," they said. Moscow's $25 billion loan to build Egypt's first nuclear power plant about 180 miles northwest of Cairo was also cited as an issue which Al-Sisi needed to "revaluate." The Congress members warned that Al-Sisi's decisions "risk making the country a Russian dependency."

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