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Biden approves $200m arms sale to Egypt despite promising tougher stance on rights abuses

The sale includes 168 tactical missiles set to boost Cairo’s defence capabilities in coastal areas

The Biden administration has approved a $200 million arms sale to Egypt despite ongoing human rights abuses in the country including the arrest of a former political prisoners' cousins days before the sale.

The US State Department said that the $197 million sales of Raytheon-made Rolling Airframe Missiles were for Egypt's navy to improve defence around the coast including the Red Sea and that it has approved the sale subject to congressional review.

It added that the sale will "support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO ally" and that Egypt continues to be a strategic partner in the Middle East.

News of the multi-million-dollar arms sale comes as a blow after Biden promised to take a stricter view of human rights abuses in Egypt after Donald Trump courted President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi as a close ally, calling him his "favourite dictator".

Throughout the Trump administration, the Egyptian government has continued to arrest and detain huge numbers of the opposition, systematically torture them and deny them medical care. The death penalty soared.

In January 2020 the first US citizen died in an Egyptian prison, Moustafa Kassem, a taxi driver from New York.

READ: Biden suspends Trump's immunity for ex-Egypt PM

For years rights advocates have called on the US to leverage military aid and arms sales to Egypt on solid proof that Egypt is abiding by the rule of law. It was hoped that this would finally materialise under Biden.

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

The missile deal was approved just days after former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan's cousins were arrested in Egypt in reprisal for his attempts to hold Egyptian authorities to account for his two-year prison ordeal in which he was tortured and goaded to commit suicide.

Last summer, Soltan filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against former Egyptian PM Hezam Beblawi for overseeing his torture and named Al-Sisi and intelligence chief Abbas Kamel as "unsued defendants" which has provoked fury among the Egyptian administration.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price has said the US "takes seriously all allegations of arbitrary arrest or detention" and that it is looking into the arrest of Soltan's cousins.

"We will bring our values with us into every relationship that we have across the globe. That includes our close security partners. That includes with Egypt,' it added.

The US was one of 58 states which endorsed a non-binding declaration put forward by Canada this week denouncing state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes.

Biden is also reviewing a major sale of jets to the UAE, which has also committed severe human rights atrocities.

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