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10 US senators urge Trump to pressure Sisi to annul Egypt’s new NGO law

Ten US senators have urged US President Donald Trump to pressure President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to annul Egypt’s recently-approved NGO law and to end a crackdown on civil society groups.

In an official letter, the senators, who are both Democrats and Republicans, state that the law will lead to the “unprecedented repression” of civil society, and call on Trump to urge Sisi to end all “politically motivated” judicial cases for the future of bilateral relations.

The signatories include senators Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin, Todd Young, Catherine Cortez Masto, Susan Collins, Tim Kaine, Bob Menendez, Bob Casey, Chris Coons and Jeanne Shaheen.

“The US Congress will take the Egyptian government’s recent actions into consideration as we review our bilateral assistance to Egypt to ensure that the American [people’s] tax dollars are used appropriately,” they said.

The letter was sent a few days after several Egyptian MPs visited the US to meet with US senators and congressmen. MP Mohamed Abu Hamed told Egypt’s privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper that they discussed the state of human rights and civil society organizations in Egypt. US lawmakers believe “steps taken for political reform [in Egypt] are not deep or strong enough,” according to Abu Hamed.

“Under the leadership of President Sisi, the Egyptian government has systematically cracked down on civil society groups and independent media, jailed tens of thousands of political prisoners, and used violence and intimidation against individuals critical of the government,” the senators wrote.

Egypt’s contentious new NGO law has been strongly criticized by local and international voices, the latest of whom were Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who deemed it “draconian legislation.”

“The law effectively bans the work of human rights groups and makes it harder for charities to operate at a time when Egyptian citizens are more in need of their services than ever before. It also violates Egypt’s stated commitment to protecting constitutionally guaranteed rights, including freedom of assembly and association,” McCain and Graham said.

Deputy Director for Policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) Cole Bockenfeld told Mada Masr previously that 15 percent of US aid is conditional on human rights and governance, based on signs that the Egyptian government “is taking effective steps to protect freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including the ability of civil society organizations and the media to function without interference.”

Despite the Trump administration’s proposal to grant Egypt US$1.3 billion in military aid, it remains up to the US congress whether Egypt receives this aid or not, and what conditions need to be met before it is released.

According to Bockenfeld, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can decide to either waive or enforce these conditions regarding future US aid.

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