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US' Biden authorises $2.5bn arms sale to Egypt as torture video spreads online

US President Joe Biden speaks during the US Conference of Mayors 90th Annual Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, United States on January 21, 2022. [Kyle Mazza - Anadolu Agency]
US President Joe Biden speaks during the US Conference of Mayors 90th Annual Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, United States on January 21, 2022. [Kyle Mazza - Anadolu Agency]

Biden has authorised a $2.5 billion arms sale to Egypt as the country's human rights violations spiral out of control.

The announcement comes as a video spread online showing scenes of torture within a police station in Cairo confirming what rights defenders have said for years – that torture of prisoners in Egypt is systematic and widespread.

Details of the weapons deal have been announced just days before the US will decide whether to release a tranche of military aid suspended last year due to human rights concerns.

In September last year the US released $170 million worth of military aid to Egypt and withheld $130 million on the condition that Egypt dropped charges against human rights activists.

At the time, rights advocates said they hoped for a bigger rebuke with Senator Chris Murphy calling on Biden to withhold all funding.

House Affairs Committee Democrats said yesterday that whilst Egypt has released certain political prisoners "the Egyptian government must meet the Administration's conditions in full by the communicated deadline."

READ: Leaked video shows torture in Cairo police station

Co-chairs of Congress' Egypt Human Rights Caucus, Democrats Don Beyer and Tom Malinowski, said in a statement yesterday: "The human rights conditions President Biden attached to our aid to Egypt were not a multiple-choice menu for President Sisi to choose from – they were meant to be met in full."

"If the Egyptian government cherry picks a few concessions from the president's list, while intensifying its broader campaign of repression, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial punishments, that would defeat the purpose of the administration's efforts."

"Rewarding such a cynical move would make it even less likely that Egypt will take our requests on human rights or any other issue seriously in the future. As such, President Biden should reprogramme the withheld $130 million as promised, unless the Egyptian regime complies with his stated conditions in full by the deadline."

Last year there was outrage when the United States approved a $200 million arms sale to Egypt on the grounds that Egypt "continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East," and gave a green light to the human rights violations taking place inside the country.

Biden had previously insisted that torturing, exiling or arresting the family members of activists was unacceptable and vowed to hold the Egyptian government accountable for violations.

The huge arms deal came not long after plainclothes Egyptian police officers raided the home of family members of former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan and detained two of his cousins.

In 2015 Soltan, who has said he was "subjected to more torture than anyone should have to endure", was released from prison on the grounds that he relinquish his Egyptian citizenship and was deported to the US.

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