US sells $200m in weapons to Egypt despite Biden 'no more blank checks' pledge
The sale of 168 missiles to Cairo appears to defy an electoral promise made by President Joe Biden that he would not issue any more blank checks to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who Trump previously called his "favourite dictator".
The $197 million worth of Raytheon missiles were requested by the Egyptian navy to improve coastal defence, the State Department said, calling Cairo "an important strategic partner" in the region.
The sale is still subject to congressional approval.
It was announced just days after Egyptian security forces raided the homes of relatives of Mohamed Soltan, a US national who was jailed by Cairo for two years.
Human rights groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm on Egypt, saying that Sisi has cracked down on free speech and imprisoned tens of thousands of political opponents ever since he led a military coup against Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.
Social media influencers, comedians, bloggers, journalists, activists and academics have been jailed, while many continue to be held in pre-trial detention.
There are some 60,000 political detainees in Egypt according to estimates.
Two of Soltan's cousins were detained according to Lewis. Another cousin, currently suffering from a broken leg, was ordered to turn himself in to the police after it healed.
The raids and detentions were an attempt to intimidate Soltan "into silence", Lewis added.
|Read more: UK must stop supply Egypt regime with arms: CAAT|
Mohammed Soltan is the son of Salah Soltan, an Islamic scholar considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed after Sisi seized power in 2013.
Mohammed, who held dual American and Egyptian nationality at the time, was arrested that year amid an exceedingly bloody crackdown against supporters of the group.
He was released in 2015 after agreeing to renounce his Egyptian citizenship.
A State Department spokesman said he was "looking into" the detention allegations.
"We will bring our values with us into every relationship that we have across the globe. That includes with our close security partners. That includes with Egypt," spokesman Ned Lewis said on Tuesday.
Cairo is the second largest non-NATO recipient of US military aid after Israel.
Regional analysts had predicted the Biden administration would take a much tougher stance on the Egyptian regime than that witnessed under former President Donald Trump.
President Biden called out the treatment of Soltan's family in a tweet last year.
"Arresting, torturing, and exiling activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable. No more blank checks for Trump's 'favorite dictator'," he wrote.
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