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Ilhan Omar among 8 US Congress members raising concern for Egypt political prisoners

Rashida Tlaib (R) and Ilhan Omar (L) became the first Middle Eastern women to be elected to Congress during the US mid-terms on 6 November, 2018 [Facebook]
Rashida Tlaib (R) and Ilhan Omar (L) became the first Middle Eastern women to be elected to Congress during the US mid-terms on 6 November, 2018 [Facebook]

Eight members of Congress including Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have written a letter to the Egyptian ambassador to the US expressing their concern for human rights defenders in the north African state.

The letter "urges" the Egyptian government to make prisoners a priority.

"As Representatives of the American people," the letter states, "we have a duty to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are not being used to violate the human rights of American citizens and / or the United States' treaty obligations."

"For years the United States has been a strong supporter of Egypt, and Congress has routinely appropriated over $1 billion per year in bilateral assistance."

In September last year there was outrage after the US state department released $1.3 billion in military aid despite continuous human rights violations on the ground.

In 2018 the US announced it was blocking $290 million annual aid to Egypt citing human rights violations.

Rights groups have continually called on politicians to condition aid on Egypt's adherence to human rights.

READ: Egypt deports Palestinian writer Bisan Al-Adwan

In Egypt there are 60,000 political prisoners who are systematically tortured and denied medical assistance.

In January the first US citizen died in an Egyptian prison after being denied medical care for his diabetes and heart condition. Moustafa Kassem was on hunger and thirst strike in protest against the conditions he was being kept in.

The State Department's 2018 Egypt Human Rights Report notes a number of "extremely concerning ongoing human rights issues in Egypt" including arbitrary killings and life-threatening prison conditions.

"We are particularly concerned with the conditions faced by prisoners in Egyptian custody."

The letter goes on to mention American citizens Reem Desouky and Khaled Hassan who continue to be detained in Egypt.

Also mentioned in the letter are Alaa Abdel Fattah, the well-known blogger was arrested as part of the September crackdown, and dual Egyptian-Palestinian citizen Ramy Shaath whose pre-trial detention has been consistently renewed. Along with lawyers Mohamed El-Baqer, Mahienour El-Massry and researchers Ibrahim Ezz El-Din and Patrick George Zaki.

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