WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Tuesday he will not approve sending funds to the Egyptian military, denouncing a “sham trial” in which a court sentenced 683 people to death.
“I’m not prepared to sign off on the delivery of additional aid for the Egyptian military,” the Vermont Democrat said in a speech on the Senate floor, explaining why he would hold up the $650 million.
“I’m not prepared to do that until we see convincing evidence the government is committed to the rule of law,” Leahy said.
The Obama administration said last week it would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters and $650 million to Egypt’s military, relaxing a partial suspension of aid imposed after Egypt’s military ousted President Mohamed Mursi last year and cracked down violently on protesters.
Leahy said he would block the money a day after an Egyptian court sentenced the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters to death, intensifying a crackdown on the Islamist movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of an election next month.
The Apaches are not subject to congressional approval.
Leahy said he would be watching the situation in Egypt with “growing dismay” even if he were not chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, denouncing “a sham trial lasting barely an hour.”
“It’s a flaunting of human rights by the Egyptian government. It’s an appalling abuse of the justice system, which is fundamental to any democracy. Nobody, nobody, can justify this. It does not show democracy. It shows a dictatorship run amok. It is a total violation of human rights,” Leahy said.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu)