A group of Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged President Joe Biden’s administration to defer certain military assistance to Egypt due to worries about human rights.
They join a chorus of lawmakers who have called for such action before a deadline of September 30. Before then, the administration is anticipated to make its choice public.
Under U.S. law, about $300 million of the $1.3 billion in foreign military assistance to Egypt is subject to human rights certification each year. Last year, the Biden administration withheld $130 million of that total because of Cairo’s rights record.
“Thousands of Egyptians including journalists, peaceful civil society activists, human rights defenders, and political figures remain detained on politically motivated charges and are often subject to abuse, mistreatment, and medical neglect,” said the letter, led by Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The State Department declined comment on the letter, as is typical for congressional correspondence. The Egyptian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Washington sees Cairo as an important strategic partner and ally in a tumultuous region and has said repeatedly that it is committed to support its legitimate defense needs.
A group of 11 senators led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East subcommittee, recently sent its own letter urging the administration to withhold the $300 million.
Human rights groups have also urged that funds be withheld.