Dear President Trump,
Throughout four decades of cooperation, the relationship between the United States and Egypt has been built on shared objectives and interests. As you know, Egypt is an important ally of the United States and collaborates closely to counter terrorism, prevent illicit smuggling, and enhance regional stability. However, over the past few years, we have witnessed some disturbing trends in Egypt including the detention of tens of thousands of political prisoners, a crackdown on media organizations and civil society, and the ratification of legislation that imposes severe regulations on nongovernmental organizations. These actions raise significant concerns about the future of Egypt’s democratic transition and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s willingness to ensure that the rights of all Egyptians are respected.
I was encouraged to see media reports that your Administration has denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed $195 million in military funding due to concerns over its human rights record. A key element of U.S. foreign policy has always been and must continue to be support for human rights, political reform, and civil society. It is clear that Egypt has not met the congressionally-mandated democratic benchmarks and human rights conditions on U.S assistance, and curtailing funding is important to ensure that the Government of Egypt remains committed to its international obligations on human rights and political reform.
As you continue to work with the Government of Egypt on its human rights agenda, I urge you to raise the issue of the continued imprisonment in Egypt of nearly 20 American citizens, including college student and New York native Ahmed Etiwy. Mr. Etiwy has been falsely accused of participating in unauthorized protests, despite exculpatory evidence obtained by his lawyer, and is being charged in a mass tribunal with 493 codefendants. His imprisonment seems to be part of a troubling crackdown on independent voices across Egypt over the past several years, and he has now languished in pretrial detention for over four years. The trial is schedule to be adjudicated on August 28, 2017, making this case especially urgent.
Your efforts to bring Aya Hijazi home helped unite our country for an important moment. Recognizing that the United States should do all it can to demand the release of citizens unjustly detained abroad, it is important that you call for Ahmed Etiwy’s immediate release and the release of all Americans unjustly detained in Egypt. Mr. Etiwy and all of our citizens are looking to you for support and relief.
The United States remains committed to our partnership with Egypt, as reflected by Congress annually allocating $1.3 billion in U.S. assistance to Egypt. However, U.S. engagement should be coupled with an Egyptian commitment to human rights and democratic reform that will create accountable, democratic institutions and a dynamic civil society that can give all Egyptian citizens a stake in their nation’s future.
Thank you for your attention to Mr. Etiwy’s case and the plight of all Americans who have been wrongly imprisoned in Egypt.
Senator John McCain
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee