U.S. Shameful Silence on Al-Sisi’s Long Detention of an American Citizen in Egypt

While the Obama administration is pouring $1.3 billion in an annual U.S. military aid to the al-Sisi military regime, the Egyptian government is waging war against what it describes as an American-inspired plot to divide and destroy the country.

On the other hand, Obama administration made no response to the crackdown on a U.S.-backed non-governmental organization in Cairo, simply pretending that it isn’t happening.

The Washington Post published on Sunday an article by C, the WP Deputy Editorial Page Editor, titled:” The Obama administration ignores an American imprisoned in Egypt” shedding light on the passive policy of the United States of America towards al-Sisi’s autocratic regime concerning an American prisoner who has been detained for more than two years in al-Sisi’s prisons.

The American citizen is Aya Hijazi of Alexandria, 29 years old, who has been imprisoned in Cairo without trial since May 2, 2014 -801 days.

She was arrested with her husband and four other people for administrating a nonprofit NGO, the Belady Foundation, which was dedicated to rescuing abandoned and homeless kids.

Hijazi and her husband have been charged with sexually abusing the children and paying them to participate in anti-government demonstrations — allegations that Egyptian and international human rights groups have described as preposterous.

Jackson Diehl said , “if an American founded an Egyptian NGO in the eyes of the Egyptian security services, must make her part of the nefarious anti-Egyptian plot that Sisi and the regime’s ideologues imagine. “

Aya Hijazi is, in essence, a prisoner in what Sisi has called the fourth generation war against what he thinks is a U.S.-backed subversion.

However, what is really astonishing is the US stance toward the case as the Obama administration’s response to this gross persecution of an American citizen was “Absolute Silence.”

The State Department did not offer a single word of defense or public protest despite all the abuse that has been subjected against Aya Hijazi. Obama administration did not react when she was smeared as a sex criminal and a U.S. secret agent on Egyptian state television; her pretrial detention passed Egypt’s legal limit of two years; and when her case was postponed seven times on ridiculous pretexts, said .

On May 21, a U.S. consular official appeared at Hijazi’s last court hearing. “According to the family, the US official was denied entrance to the courtroom — and the proceeding resulted in another long postponement, until Nov. 19. State had nothing to say about that, either,”

Egyptian and international human rights groups reacted against Hijazi’s trial. 17 Egyptian human rights groups issued a statement in May, pointing out that the allegations of sexual abuse had been disproved by the government’s own forensic examinations — which probably explains why the trial has been repeatedly postponed. Instead, the statement said, Hijazi’s prolonged pretrial detention serves as “a form of punishment in and of itself, a means to retaliate against activists unrelated to any legal grounds for detention.”

In the same context, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights filed a petition on Hijazi’s case to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention On May 19.

The petition reads that Hijazi had been subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques.” One security officer “hit her neck, bringing her to her knees, called her names, threatened to urinate into her vagina, and said that she should be sentenced to death or at minimum, life imprisonment.” Unfortunately, the Obama administration remained silent.

Hijazi’s case is similar to Jason Rezaian’s case, who was arrested by Iranian authorities in the summer of 2014 and held until early this yea, Diehl said, adding, “Rezaian, too, was subjected to a prolonged pretrial detention in violation of Iran’s laws, smeared as a U.S. spy in local media and abused by interrogators who attempted in vain to concoct a case against him.” But in Rezaian case President Obama publicly spoke up by himself for Rezaian, calling his imprisonment unjust and demanding his release.

Diehl wondered if there was an explanation for the failure to defend this equally innocent, if less prominent, U.S. citizen. The obvious answer is that the Obama administration is loath to acknowledge that the U.S. relationship with longtime ally Egypt has turned toxic — that Sisi treats Americans in Egypt as enemies even while pocketing bounteous U.S. aid,“ said the WP article.

When Diehl asked about Hijazi’s case, a State Department official who declined to be identified provided only a technical excuse saying that the State had not received a written permission from Hijazi to speak out. That is disputed by Hijazi’s family, saying that she signed a waiver; Rezaian also told me he never provided such written consent.

In the same context, the State Department official also said “We are aware that Ms. Hijazi has been detained in Egypt for more than two years and is currently on trial. We have made clear to the Egyptian authorities our interest in a speedy conclusion to her case. Two years is too long to wait for justice.”

Hijazi is not a random incident but she is only one of thousands of peaceful activists who have been jailed by the Sissi regime. However, what makes it a shameful case to the US that she is an American, a citizen of a country and US didn’t seriously issue the case with the al-Sisi regime and at the same time U.S. continues to heavily fund the very military establishment that is persecuting her.

Diehl concluded his article saying that the Obama administration’s policy towards Hijazi case is not only shameful; it’s an invitation to al-Sisi regime to launch more attacks on innocent Americans.