US breaking pledge to help political prisoner arrested in Egypt: Family

The family of a prominent political prisoner, who is a permanent US resident in Egypt, has condemned the Biden administration, accusing it of abandoning him after the prisoner informed his family that he is facing death while in detention.

Salah Soltan told his family in a letter smuggled out of prison that he felt “as if I stared death in the eyes while lying on the ground, paralysed and denied help and medicine for days” after he had collapsed earlier this year following chest pains.

The letter, seen by Middle East Eye, was dated 16 June 2023 and addressed to Salah’s grandson.

“I love you, and I long for the opportunity to meet you, whether it is in this life or in the corridors of Paradise in the one after,” he said in the letter.

Salah’s family stated that it has become clear “the Biden administration is reluctant to put the necessary efforts required to secure our dad and other prisoners’ release”.

“When dealing with Egypt, the Biden administration is actively choosing not to prioritise protecting its own citizens’ safety and freedoms,” they said in a statement to The Guardian.

A letter previously leaked on 20 March 2023 from Salah said that authorities at the prison had deprived him of adequate health care, even though he suffers from life-threatening heart and liver diseases.

Salah, a legal permanent resident of the US, is currently serving a life sentence at Badr 1 prison, east of Cairo, following a mass trial marred by extensive due process and fair trial violations which came after the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Mohamed Morsi. Salah was a deputy minister under Morsi.

Salah’s son, Mohamed, was also imprisoned for two years but was freed following an almost 500-day hunger strike in 2015. Since then, he has become a leading human rights activist in the US.

President Joe Biden began speaking up about human rights in Egypt while he was on the campaign trail, where he specifically cited Mohamed’s case.

“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’,” Biden said in July 2020 on Twitter, now known as X.

However, since being elected, Biden has been routinely criticised for failing to live up to this promise.

The Biden administration did withhold $130m in military aid to Egypt over human rights conditions, but this fell short of the $300m that activists and several US lawmakers had called for. The US gives Egypt $1.3bn in military aid annually.

In February 2021, the Biden administration greenlit a $200m arms sale to Egypt on the same day that the Freedom Initiative, a US-based rights group Mohamed helped create, reported that plain-clothes officers raided the homes of six of the activist’s relatives in Egypt, including two cousins who are not involved in politics, detaining them in a “campaign of retaliatory aggression”.

“As a candidate, President Biden used my name and my family’s plight to promise a policy of ‘No blank checks’ to Egypt. I am extremely disappointed that they are not living up to the promises they made,” Mohamed said in a statement to The Guardian.

Salah’s family and human rights experts say that adding to the issue of his detention is that Egyptian authorities have appeared to retaliate against him for his son’s advocacy in the US.

After Mohamed testified in US Congress in 2015 about human rights violations in Egypt by the government of Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, UN experts reported that Salah was forcibly disappeared for a month-and-a-half and subjected to torture.

“His treatment was the result of his son’s treason in the United States Congress,” according to the report.

Salah was again forcibly disappeared in June 2020, just days after his son Mohamed filed a lawsuit against former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi for alleged torture and other crimes committed against him years earlier.

“We have encouraged the government of Egypt to ensure Mr Soltan and all detainees have access to appropriate medical care,” the State Department told The Guardian.

› Subscribe


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

More Articles