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Biden administration approves arms sale to Egypt despite human rights abuses

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US crew members, standing in front of the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launcher on the deck of the USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) in the southeastern port city of Busan, on March 14, 2015. (Photo by AP)

The administration of US President Joe Biden has approved an arms sale worth nearly $200 million to Egypt despite concerns over human rights violations in the North African country.

The sale "will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO ally country that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East,” the State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The $197 million sale of the Raytheon-made Rolling Airframe Missiles was requested by the Egyptian navy to improve defense in coastal areas and around the Red Sea, the US Department of State said.

Washington's arms sale comes only days after the arrest in Egypt of family members of a US-based Egyptian opposition activist, Mohamed Soltan.

Price said Washington was "looking into" reports about the targeting relatives of Soltan, who has filed a lawsuit alleging torture in Egyptian custody.

He said plainclothes officers raided the homes of six of his family members on Sunday, detaining two cousins.

“We take seriously all allegations of arbitrary arrest or detention," Price claimed.

"We will bring our values with us into every relationship that we have across the globe. That includes with our close security partners,” he said. “That includes with Egypt."

Soltan was arrested in August 2013 after President Abel Fatah el-Sisi led the military ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi.

He was released in 2015, and deported to the United States after renouncing his Egyptian citizenship. He spent 490 days on hunger strike before being released.

Soltan filed the lawsuit in a US court in June.

“Now the Egyptian regime is arresting his relatives to try to intimidate him into silence,” said Eric Lewis, a lawyer for Soltan.

“Such tactics have no place in the international community," he added.

The government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been accused of serious human rights abuses.

According to the State Department's 2019 country report on human rights practices in Egypt, those abuses included "unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents and terrorist groups; forced disappearance; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; and political prisoners.”

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