US 'to withhold $85 million' in military aid to Egypt
The funds, a small part of the $1.3bn in annual US military aid to Cairo, will be instead directed to Taiwan and Lebanon, a State Department letter to congressional committees showed.
The $85 million was conditioned by the US on the release of political prisoners, with lawmakers urging the Biden administration to withhold $235m more.
"The administration rightly decided to withhold that first tranche - $85m tied to the release of political prisoners - because there's just no question there has not been enough progress," Democrat Senator Chris Murphy said, according to Reuters.
"I would urge the administration to finish the job and withhold the full $320m... until Egypt's human rights and democracy record improves," he added.
Washington has in the past withheld some of the $320m in foreign military financing (FMF) to Egypt, which is conditioned on meeting democracy and human rights requirements.
Rights groups in July urged the White House to withhold the full amount this year, saying that Cairo has failed to meet the benchmarks set by the US.
In September 2021, the US withheld $130m, saying it would only release the funds if the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi delivered on a set of human rights demands.
Those conditions included ending the detention of several Egyptians politically targeted by Cairo, and ending Case 173 of 2011, a politically motivated case in which 43 foreign and domestic NGO employees were sent to prison and a number of civil society groups, including Freedom House, were shut down.
Cairo is the second-largest recipient of US military aid, behind Israel.
Despite the calls to curtail US military aid to Egypt, Washington has continued to reward Cairo with arms sales.
In January 2022, the US approved an arms sale to Egypt valued at about $2.5bn.
Since coming to power in 2013 following a coup, Sisi has led a brutal suppression of dissent, jailing more than 60,000 activists and imposing strict censorship on public discourse.
Hundreds of prisoners have also died in detention due to poor conditions and medical neglect, according to human rights activists.
Sisi has consistently denied there are political prisoners in Egypt and has instead framed the crackdown as part of a fight against terrorism.
In recent years, the Egyptian government has made efforts to reduce its prison population. In 2022, for example, Cairo released 895 political prisoners, according to Amnesty International.
However, rights experts have previously told MEE that despite these apparent efforts to ease the crackdown on civil society the Sisi government has continued to arrest and target its critics.