US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he “shares concerns” about “poor conditions in Egyptian detention facilities,” in a letter to the working group on Egypt at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Carnegie’s original letter drew attention to the “abysmal conditions of political detainees in Egypt” highlighted by Mohamed Morsi’s death in a courtroom and asked Pompeo to “speak up publicly and privately for detainees.”
Morsi died on 17 June after collapsing in a court session. He had been in solitary confinement for six years where he was consistently denied access to medical care for diabetes and liver and kidney disease.
“While Morsi’s treatment was notably cruel, it was not unusual. Today there are thousands of Egyptian political prisoners mistreated this way, and many are in danger of premature death or permanent damage to their health,” continued the letter.
Rights groups estimate that there are roughly 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, many of whom are pro-democracy supporters. Refusing to administer necessary medical care is a common punitive measure used by the regime.
In response to Carnegie’s letter, Pompeo said that the safety of US citizens abroad are a “top priority” and that “I have worked – and continue to work – to ensure these detainees are treated humanely and fairly.”
“This has included advocating on behalf of US citizens detained in Egypt with Egyptian senior officials on multiple occasions,” he continued.
“Two US citizens formerly detained in Egypt have been released during the Administration’s tenure, and these efforts continue,” he said in reference to Mohamed Soltan and Aya Hijazi.
Mohamed Soltan, who was arrested in 2013 for allegedly colluding with terrorists, was released in 2015 after he went on hunger strike and agreed to relinquish his Egyptian citizenship.
In 2017 Aya Hijazi and her husband Mohamed Hassanein were released after spending three years in prison on human trafficking charges.
However, the letter comes shortly after the arrest of Egyptian-American Reem Al-Dessouki not long after she arrived at Cairo airport on Sunday 7 July, on charges that she joined a banned group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Several human rights lawyers have pointed out the US embassy in Egypt are not doing enough to intervene, despite a request submitted by her brother.
The family of US permanent residents Ola Al-Qaradawi and her husband Hosam Khalaf have criticised the White House for not intervening hard enough to release their parents. Ola has been in solitary confinement for 740 days.
The US continues to supply Egypt with millions of dollars of aid, despite unprecedented human rights abuses in the country.