The Biden administration says it is withholding about 10% of its annual military aid to Egypt because of concerns over human rights abuses by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Egypt will still get nearly $1.2 billion in military assistance, even as a new report by Human Rights Watch finds Egyptian authorities have killed perhaps hundreds of secretly held dissidents in extrajudicial executions in recent years. Egypt holds an estimated 60,000 political prisoners, including the prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who appeared in court this week to face charges of spreading “false news” on social media. He has been imprisoned since his arrest in September 2019, just six months after he was released following a five-year prison term for his role in the peaceful demonstrations of 2011. El-Fattah’s mother Laila Soueif, a mathematics professor at Cairo University, says he is under severe restrictions, with no exercise time or even reading materials permitted in jail. “He’s been in jail on pretrial remand for more than three years, which is completely illegal,” says Soueif. The case against the activist is part of a wider crackdown on civil society, says Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, a reporter for the independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr. “The vast majority of political prisoners in Egypt have not been convicted of a crime,” he says.
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