12/28/2021 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Last week, an Egyptian court sentenced three human rights activists to up to five years in prison, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The sentencings come as the United States continues to keep a close eye on human rights conditions in Egypt as a key piece of the two countries’ alliance.
The three men sentenced, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer, and Mohamed Ibrahim, were all convicted on charges of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news. The convictions fall in line with a pattern of human rights violations from the Egyptian government in cracking down on dissidents and human rights defenders.
Ramy Kamel, an advocate for Egypt’s persecuted Coptic Christian community, is another example of the government’s crackdown on human rights defenders. Mr. Kamel was arrested more than two years ago just before he was set to travel to speak on the plight of Egypt’s Copts for similar accusations of terrorist connections, though little evidence of this has been produced by the government. Although Kamel was imprisoned under Egypt’s long-running state of emergency, he remains in prison without a court date despite the recent lifting of the state of emergency.
Many human rights watchdogs following Egypt hoped that the country’s conditions would improve following the U.S. threat of withholding military aid to the north African country. Though some progress has been made on this front with last week’s release of Patrick Zaki, another Coptic rights activist, many are still concerned with Egypt’s religious freedom violations.
In its 2021 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that Egypt be placed on the State Department’s Special Watch List for countries whose governments “engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom,” according to USCIRF’s report. Despite this recommendation, the State Department has not made such a designation.
To ensure that Egypt actually makes an effort to improve the situation of the country’s Coptic community, U.S. officials must press their Egyptian counterparts on these detentions.
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