US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the release of US-Egyptian detainee Aya Hegazy during a meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday evening, according to a press release from her campaign team.
Hegazy has been detained for over two years on what her family claims are false charges.
Clinton and fellow presidential candidate Donald Trump met with Sisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Both emphasized Egypt’s importance in tackling terrorism, while Clinton also stressed the importance of the rule of law and human rights.
Hegazy was arrested in 2014 with her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, along with several staffers from the Belady Foundation, an NGO they founded to support street children. She and the seven other defendants face charges ranging from running an unlicensed organization and inciting street children to join pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests, to sexually assaulting minors.
These charges have been vehemently denied by all the defendants, as well as Hegazy’s family.
Clinton’s statement is the latest in a series of calls from US lawmakers to release Hegazy. On Friday, two US Congressmen held a press conference calling for her immediate release. The White House also released a statement on Friday calling for her release after meeting with her family.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry denounced these statements, calling on American officials to respect the rule of law.
Clinton also “raised concerns about prosecution of Egyptian human rights organizations and activists,” according to her press release. Egypt has been criticized for its recent crackdown on human rights defenders and NGOs.
On Saturday an Egyptian court froze the assets of several prominent NGOs and human rights activists, a move that was deemed “the latest episode in the abuse of and vengeance against rights defenders in Egypt,” by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
Clinton and Sisi discussed ways of progressing with counterterrorism operations, with the presidential hopeful emphasizing the importance of Egyptian cooperation with Israel. Clinton stressed her “commitment to defeating ISIS, to addressing foreign fighters, and to countering radicalization.”
US officials have made several statements criticizing human rights abuses in Egypt. But despite these statements, Egypt remains one of the largest recipients of US military aid.
Both Trump and Clinton were slammed in a joint letter by a number of American-based academics and rights activists for agreeing to meet with Sisi.
“Since taking power via a military coup three years ago, President Sisi has overseen not only the complete reversal of Egypt’s nascent democratic transition but also unprecedented human rights abuses. It is not in our interest to embrace him but to use our influence to press for beneficial change in Egypt,” the letter read, adding, “Your meeting with Sisi at the UNGA will be taken in Egypt, and around the world, as an endorsement.”