By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama is in Egypt with fellow Senators John McCain (R) from Arizona, Lindsey Graham (R) from South Carolina, Richard Blumenthal (D) from Connecticut, and John Hoeven (R) from North Dakota.
The State Department said in a written statement where Sen. McCain made a public statement about the purpose of the Senators visit. Sen. McCain said, “We traveled here to meet with newly elected members of the Parliament from across the political spectrum, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – and to participate in a conference with Egyptian and American businesses that seek to increase prosperity and development in both of our peoples. With all of these different groups, we have reaffirmed the support of the United States, and the Congress in particular, for the sovereignty and aspirations of the Egyptian people – and conveyed our strong desire to cooperate, as partners and friends, with the new democratic government.”
Sen. McCain said they had planned the trip before Egypt arrested several American members of international Non-Governmental Agencies (NGOs), including Sam Lahood the son of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood. Sen. McCain said that they were leaving the release of the hostages to the State Department and the Egyptian Government: “We had scheduled this visit prior to the recent increase in tensions related to the non-governmental organizations. So our goal in coming here is not to attempt to negotiate this very important and delicate matter. We leave that to the Government of Egypt, the U.S. Embassy, and the Embassies of other countries involved.
Sen. McCain acknowledged that the fate of the prisoners has come up in their meeting. “Of course, the issue of the NGOs came up in all of our meetings. And we are confident that people of good faith – in this country, our country, and many others – can and will find an acceptable resolution to the present situation.”
Sen. McCain said, “As we follow the debate here in Egypt, we hear it said that these NGOs are violating Egyptian sovereignty and meddling in this country’s internal affairs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the majority of the people who work for these organizations here in Egypt are not foreigners, but Egyptians. And their work – which is done at the request of Egyptian democracy and civil society groups – seeks to support these Egyptian partners in pushing for the rule of law, free elections, a free media, respect for the human rights of all people, and other core principles of a democratic society. This assistance has been all the more important because of certain laws that have limited the freedom of Egyptian non-governmental organizations to work on behalf of their own civil society and democratic aspirations, both during the Mubarak era and still today.
According to Amnesty International, the Egyptian government arrested 44 persons, 14 of them Egyptians, as well as 16 Americans, Germans, and Serbians that worked for “five organizations – the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI); the International Republican Institute (IRI); the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ); Freedom House (FH) and the Germany-based Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.” A number of Egyptian NGOs were also raided the same day, including the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP) and the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory (BHRO).”
The Egyptian government claims that the individuals are in violation of a Mubarek era statute that bans Egyptian organizations and associations from accepting money from international organizations. Nationalist and Islamist groups have accused the NGOs of being part of some sort of international conspiracy to foment unrest in the nation. Critics of the arrests say that they violate the basic freedom of association.
At least three of the 7 indicted Americans who are still in Egypt, including Sam Lahood, are staying with the American Ambassador to Egypt. They may be arrested again. They may attempt to leave Egypt or they may stand trial and face up to five years in an Egyptian prison. Some member of Congress have questioned if we should continue to provide Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in military aid.
To read the press release: