World

Egypt's Mass Death Sentence Puts U.S. Aid In The Spotlight

The White House announced it intended to process $650 million in military aid to Egypt despite ongoing turmoil in the country.

Egypt's Mass Death Sentence Puts U.S. Aid In The Spotlight
Flickr / Mahmoud Gamal El-Din

You've probably heard by now an Egyptian court recently sentenced 683 people to death in a trial denounced by much of the international community as a sham.

And that includes the Obama administration, which called the verdict "unconscionable." (Via Euronews

​​Thing is, that verdict came less than a week after the administration announced it would resume sending $650 million in military aid to Egypt. (Via Defense News)

That aid was originally put on hold after Egypt's military overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, and then brutally suppressed protesters calling for his return. (Via RT, ITN

​That unrest is still ongoing, but the State Department has now eased restrictions on funding to be used for Egypt's border security and counterterrorism programs. 

Plenty of observers have taken the administration to task for releasing the aid in light of heavy-handed moves like the mass death sentence, saying it looks like the U.S. cares more about Egypt's strategic value than its democracy.

SAHAR AZIZ, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY: "So right now Obama is trying to tell Egypt, 'You need to show me progress.' ... But these types of incidents and these types of rulings undermine that." (Via Al Jazeera

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy would probably agree with that statement. He's vowed to block assistance to Egypt's military until he sees evidence the country is on the path to democracy. (Via U.S. Senate

LEAHY: "Nobody can justify this. It does not show democracy. It shows a dictatorship run amok." (Via Office of Sen. Patrick Leahy

But not according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy. During his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, he argued Egypt's government was completely independent of its judicial system.

Fahmy also pointed to the country’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections as evidence Egypt is committed to democracy. Egypt's former military general Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi is all but guaranteed to win. (Via CCTV)

The Obama administration has not commented directly on Leahy's statements, but a spokesperson told Voice of America White House officials will update Congress "as the aid moves forward."