Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy On President al-Sisi's Visit To The White House

Senator Patrick Leahy
Press Conference on Egyptian President al-Sisi’s Visit to The White House
Capitol Hill

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Today, Egypt’s President al-Sisi will be welcomed to the White House and treated like a legitimate head of state by President Trump. So it is fitting that we are here to call attention to things that are happening in Egypt that you will not hear about from either president.

Egypt is a country with an extraordinary history and culture. It has been a U.S. ally for many years. It has been a moderating influence in an unstable part of the world, a region where extremism is prevalent.

But under President al-Sisi, Egypt has chosen a dangerous path that is typical of paranoid, autocratic regimes. Faced with a popular undercurrent of desire for greater freedom and opportunity, last year political opposition candidates were imprisoned so they could not dilute al-Sisi’s margin of victory in an election that by any measure was a complete sham.

Egypt today is unmistakably a one party state, in which the Armed Forces wield near total, unchallenged authority, and in which the press is controlled.

Anyone who comes from a family that has had any prior association with the Muslim Brotherhood is automatically labeled a terrorist and imprisoned.

Artists and actors, like Mr. Naga, writers, students, human rights lawyers, social activists, and journalists who dare to criticize the regime, are arrested, accused of being traitors, and physically abused.

Even Egyptian-Americans like Mustafa Kassem, who is innocent of any crime, languish in prison despite efforts by the U.S. Embassy and people like myself to obtain their release.

April Corley, an American citizen, luckily survived a terrifying attack on her tour group by the Egyptian military that killed twelve and injured eight other innocent people. She suffers from multiple injuries and her career was ruined. Three years later she is still waiting for compensation from the Egyptian government – a government that receives, every year, $1.3 billion in military aid from the United States.

It is no secret that President Trump gets along best with autocrats who rely on repression to stay in power. President al-Sisi is now seeking to change the Constitution so he can retain control for another 25 years. He and Venezuelan President Maduro have a great deal in common. Yet one is labeled a “tyrant” by the White House, the other a “great friend”.

The irony is that while al-Sisi is here to meet with his friend in the White House, the Egyptian government–controlled media under his rule has increasingly become a proponent of anti-American propaganda and conspiracy theories.

If Egypt continues in this direction, the future is predictable and it is ominous. Rather than becoming a modern, stable, and prosperous country, it will become increasingly divided and unstable.

By imprisoning anyone who has the courage to call for more freedom of expression and political pluralism, President al-Sisi is creating a whole new generation of extremists.

It is long past time for the United States to use our influence with Egypt, including tying our military aid to reforms that protect the fundamental rights of the Egyptian people.

The alternative is to continue to be complicit with a military dictatorship that contradicts the most basic ideals and principles our country stands for.

I want to especially thank Mr. Naga for standing up for those universal principles, and for joining us here today.

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Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693