U.S. Blocks $130 Million in Aid for Egypt Over Rights Abuses

Last fall, Mr. el-Sisi announced a new strategy to protect human rights and in the months since has released some political prisoners.

But activists and American officials said it did not go far enough.

In November, five Egyptian activists and politicians, including a former member of Parliament, were sentenced from three to five years in prison on charges of spreading false news and using their social media accounts to undermine national security.

In December, an Egyptian court sentenced three prominent human rights figures to several years in prison, also on charges of spreading false news.

“Of course the Egyptian government is saying things have improved, but the reality on the ground is dark and vicious,” said Gamal Eid, who ran an independent human rights organization in Egypt for 18 years before announcing this month that he would end its operations, citing security threats and police intimidation.

Mr. Eid, who was the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, is embroiled in a criminal case against a number of nongovernmental organizations, and dozens of their members, that the authorities have accused of receiving foreign funding illegally. He has been banned from travel since 2016, and his assets have been frozen. Two of his team members, a lawyer and a researcher, are in jail.

The blocked funding is just a fraction of an estimated $1.3 billion in aid the United States generally gives Egypt each year. Only a small amount of the assistance is conditioned on the country’s human rights record, under requirements set by Congress, and officials at the State Department said $130 million was the maximum they could withhold in a single fiscal year.

But Egypt has continued to buy billions of dollars worth of military airplanes, ships and other equipment — including $2.5 billion in C-130 cargo jets and radar that was announced this week alone.

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