The Biden administration plans to release most of a controversial $300 million tranche of aid for Egypt, which is led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Washington CNN  — 

The Biden administration plans to release most of a controversial $300 million tranche of aid for Egypt, with less than half of it being temporarily held back and conditioned on meeting human rights conditions despite concerns about the country’s record.

Egypt is due to receive $170 million outright while the remaining $130 million will be withheld and conditioned on Egypt dropping prosecutions and charges against human rights activists and organizations, a source and congressional aide briefed on the decision told CNN. Legislation requires that the full $300 million be withheld unless Egypt takes steps to “strengthen the rule of law, democratic institutions, and human rights in Egypt.”

Instead, it is the $130 million portion that will now be conditioned on Egypt ending the prosecution and investigations of human rights groups and activists known as Case 173, as well as dropping charges against – or releasing – 16 individuals the US embassy in Cairo raised with the Egyptian government in June and has been closely tracking, the two people briefed said.

A group of almost 20 prominent rights groups, many of which were briefed by the State Department on the plans, called the administration’s moves “a terrible blow to its stated commitment to human rights and to the rule of law.”

“This administration has repeatedly vowed to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy and specifically its relationship with Egypt. This decision, however, is a betrayal of these commitments,” they said in a statement to be released on Tuesday.

Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid annually from the United States, and despite the conditions placed on the $300 million, past administrations have used a national security waiver to bypass those conditions and allow the aid to be sent. The Biden administration did not end up using it after being pressured by human rights groups that have repeatedly reminded the administration of candidate Joe Biden’s promise on the campaign trail that there would be “no more blank checks for Trump’s favorite dictator,” in reference to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“This is a mistake,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, tweeted after the news was broken by Politico. “Egypt has 60,000 political prisoners. They torture political dissidents. The Administration should have held back the full $300m. This half measure sends a muddled message about our commitment to human rights and democracy.”

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.