More than 50 politicians of the United States have urged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release activists, journalists, lawyers, and prisoners of conscience detained illegally in Egyptian prisons.
In a letter released on Monday, 55 Congressional Democrats (and one independent) urged el-Sisi to release those "unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental human rights". The letter is spearheaded by three Democratic lawmakers: Ro Khanna, Jim McGovern, and Sherrod Brown, Al Jazeera reported.
McGovern said, "The unjust detention of Egyptian human rights defenders, peaceful political activists and other prisoners of conscience is in direct opposition to the rights and freedoms enshrined in Egyptian and American law."
The politicians are concerned that continued unjust imprisonment during large outbreaks of COVID-19 in Egyptian prisons might lead to their death.
"We are deeply disturbed that in the middle of a pandemic, the Egyptian government continues to wrongfully hold these political prisoners in overcrowded prisons - places where we know COVID-19 can spread like wildfire and cause severe illness and death," McGovern warned.
"Even in the middle of a global pandemic, President Sisi continues to lock up prisoners in notoriously overcrowded, dangerous prisons," Khanna said.
The Sisi government is the second-largest recipient of US foreign military financing and US lawmakers have a special responsibility to press his government to free political prisoners and end its systematic human rights violations. "President Sisi must release human rights activists, lawyers and other prisoners of conscience before they face a COVID-19 death sentence behind bars," Khanna added.
Al Jazeera further reported that the letter warned el-Sisi that "the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience and other violations of human rights fundamentally undermines our countries' mutual interests and values".
The letter specified the names of political activists Ramy Shaath, Zyad el-Elaimy, and Alaa Abdel Fattah; human rights lawyers Mohamed el Baqer and Mahienour el-Massry; journalists Esraa Abdel Fattah and Solafa Magdy, and other unjustly detained prisoners of conscience and demanded their release.
In 2013 el-Sisi led a military coup that overthrew his democratically elected predecessor Mohamed Morsi of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement. Since then the Egyptian government has been executing an unparalleled crackdown on dissent.
In April, the United Nations implored Egypt to release prisoners who have been convicted of non-violent offences and those who are in pretrial detention who constitute just below one-third of those in jail. The UN even recognised Egyptian detention centers to be overcrowded, unhygienic, and lacking in resources, Al Jazeera wrote.
Last July, the Human Rights Watch released a report which mentioned that more than 14 prisoners and detainees have died, possibly from COVID-19 complications, in 10 detention facilities.
( With inputs from ANI )
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