April 03, 2017

Kaine Leads Bipartisan Group Of Senators Calling On President Trump To Raise Case Of Imprisoned Egyptian-American Aya Hijazi With President Al-Sisi

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, along with U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), wrote a letter to President Donald Trump to request that he raise the case of Aya Hijazi when he meets with Egyptian President al-Sisi today.  Hijazi, a dual Egyptian-American citizen and resident of Virginia, has been unjustly imprisoned in Egypt since May 2014 on unsubstantiated charges related to her non-profit's efforts to help Egyptian children. 

In the letter, the Senators wrote that while reaffirming "our commitment to the long-standing relationship between the United States and Egypt, [President al-Sisi's] visit also offers an opportunity to highlight important matters affecting our bilateral relationship and future direction…We hope that you will specifically raise the case of Ms. Hijazi and her co-defendants when you meet with President al-Sisi.  It is critical that the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government speak as one voice in emphasizing that the release of detained Americans remains a top priority and that respect for human rights will remain a core pillar of our foreign policy." 

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear President Trump:

As you prepare to welcome President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the White House, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to the long-standing relationship between the United States and Egypt.  His visit also offers an opportunity to highlight important matters affecting our bilateral relationship and future direction, including our concerns regarding the ongoing detention of dual Egyptian-American citizen Aya Hijazi and other members of her non-governmental organization Belady.

Since the historic signing of the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the U.S.-Egypt relationship has contributed positively to regional stability and many shared objectives.  Egypt faces threats to its security and is a member of the Global Coalition to counter ISIS.  We also recognize the economic reforms that the Egyptian government is pursuing and believe that the United States should explore new ways to assist in Egypt’s economic stabilization.  Going forward, you will find strong bipartisan support for continued U.S. assistance to Egypt and advocacy for Egypt to make progress on key issues affecting its stability. 

Egypt’s security, stability, and economic recovery will be jeopardized without improvements in human rights, fundamental freedoms, and space for civil society.  We are concerned that Egyptian authorities continue to use the facade of combatting terrorism to shut down NGOs, target media, and silence and imprison thousands of peaceful political activists. 

In particular, we are alarmed by the repeated delays in the trial and verdict for Ms. Hijazi.  She has been unjustly imprisoned since May 2014 and held on unsubstantiated charges related to her non-profit’s efforts to educate and rehabilitate street children.  Despite some positive indicators late last year, Ms. Hijazi’s trial has once again been delayed and the verdict in her case postponed.

We hope that you will specifically raise the case of Ms. Hijazi and her co-defendants when you meet with President al-Sisi.  It is critical that the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government speak as one voice in emphasizing that the release of detained Americans remains a top priority and that respect for human rights will remain a core pillar of our foreign policy.  Lack of resolution in this case will not only strain the robust bilateral relationship between the United States and Egypt, but will also raise questions about Egypt’s commitment to rule of law and due process.   

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

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