Today, twelve men who had been sentenced to death in 2018, including leaders of the 2011 pro-democracy movement, had their death sentences upheld. These men were convicted of alleged crimes relating to their participation in peaceful sit-ins in Raba’a Square opposing the military coup of 2013—protests that ended in the regime’s massacre of hundreds of protesters. Six of the twelve were arrested prior to the Raba’a massacre, making it impossible for them to be guilty of the charges of which they were convicted. Another, Mohamed Beltagy, is a former parliament member and political rival of President Al-Sisi. All appealed their sentences. Today, their final appeals were denied.
Every Western nation, every major human rights organization, has called the violence against protesters in Raba’a Square a massacre. President Al-Sisi alone defiantly promotes a false narrative in which peaceful political protesters are dangerous terrorists. This false version of the facts is essential to Al-Sisi’s claim to legitimacy. Otherwise, his presidency was birthed in the blood of innocents. By focusing on reprisals for events that happened eight years ago, Al-Sisi appears to be distracting the Egyptian people from focusing on the crisis that waits at Egypt’s doorstep: the Grand Ethiopian Dam. Egyptians should be uniting to stop the filling of this dam, which threatens the very existence of the Egyptian state.
In the strongest possible way, Egyptians Abroad for Democracy condemns these convictions and the executions that are soon to follow. But we hear nothing from the United States. This silence breaks our hearts! We fundraised and campaigned for President Biden. We believed him when he said that human rights are his top priority. But in today’s upheld death sentences, we see the tragic and real consequences of Biden not standing up to dictators.
When Biden was first sworn in, it was clear that Al-Sisi was afraid of Biden, and didn’t want to misstep. But now Al-Sisi acts with impunity because he has learned that Biden will not retaliate. The U.S. State Department’s human rights report for Egypt contains page after page of the most egregious human rights violations. Despite this report, despite the violence that Al-Sisi continues to perpetrate against his own people, the United States keeps sending money to Egypt.
What leverage does Al-Sisi have over Biden? Why is Biden silent no matter what Al-Sisi does? Trump’s favorite dictator appears to have become Biden’s favorite dictator. President Biden must condemn, as we do, Al-Sisi’s ruthless violence against his political opponents. President Biden must return to his campaign pledge of “No more blank checks for Trump’s favourite dictator,” by cutting off Al-Sisi from the $1.3 billion in military aid that Egypt receives annually from the U.S.
Egyptians Abroad for Democracy calls for suspending these death sentences and the immediate release of all political prisoners.