American sentenced to 15 years
75 others sentenced to execution
Hundred more to long term imprisonment
The United States is Egypt’s closest ally, despite this, one innocent American finds himself with a knife in his back. Moustafa Kassem is one of 18 Americans held in in Egyptian jails and one of hundreds that were sentenced Saturday. Kassem was visiting family in 2013 when his car was stopped at a checkpoint and he was wrongfully accused of being a protester against the military coup led by General Sisi.
He has been in prison and awaiting trail since that day. Today he was sentenced with 700 other co-defendants in a mass trial, though he wasn’t the least fortunate among them.
Along with numerous prison sentences, 75 members were sentenced to death. Kassem was “lucky,” in that respect, to skate by with just 15 years as his sentence.
Vice President Pence’s request ignored by Sisi
President Trump has made it a mission of his to see to it that Americans wrongfully detained abroad are brought home. To that end, he tasked Pence with bringing up Kassem’s case to President Sisi when the two met back in January:
Kassem’s case had been followed by the Trump administration, with Vice President Mike Pence saying he raised it directly with Sisi when the two met in Cairo in January.
The Trump administration has made a noted priority of freeing Americans unlawfully detained abroad. But Pence’s appeal was not enough to free Kassem at the time or help him avoid a conviction now.
Kassem is just one of several U.S. citizens currently held by Egypt, swept up in Sisi’s enormous crackdown on political opposition…
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s efforts were not met with the same success they had when dealing with Aya Hijazi’s case last year. But despite all of this, Egypt still gets to reap the rewards of being our ally and that likely won’t change so long as the Middle East and North Africa remain of strategic importance.
Military aid and joint exercises
Voice of America reports that the State Department has just authorized an additional $1 billion in military aid for Egypt in 2018 while highlighting their humanitarian concerns:
In 2013, Egypt’s crackdown on nongovernmental organizations in the country, including several American NGO workers, prompted the Obama administration to withhold military aid to the country. That year, a Cairo court convicted 43 NGO workers, including several Americans, over allegations of receiving foreign funding and sowing internal unrest in the country.
Egypt has long been viewed by the U.S. as a stabilizing force in the region. After Israel, the country is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid and has received nearly $80 billion in military and economic assistance over the past three decades.
Two days ago, units from the US special forces and their Egyptian counterparts conducted a joint counter-terrorism exercise. The maneuvers were a prelude to the 2018 Bright Star military exercise–a 36 year tradition dating back to the 1980 peace treaty–that begin today.
And, while it is important to have a regional ally we can depend on other than Israel and Saudi Arabia, you have to wonder whether Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the right man for the job. If that man you are giving billions doesn’t return your generosity it is rather hard to argue he is loyal–let alone sane.
Will Sisi become a future thorn in our sides? Only time will tell. But while an ailing Kassem sits in a cell for 10 years waiting for his freedom, tally this incident in the warning sign category, and don’t be shocked if before his release we are dealing with another aggressive desert dictator.
One that we once again gave billions of dollars worth of high powered military equipment to.