The United States has reiterated its concern over what State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described as “reports of politically-motivated arrests and detentions of political activists, peaceful demonstrators, and journalists in Egypt.”
Speaking during the State Department’s daily briefing on Thursday, Psaki said, “We continue to call on the government to ensure respect for human rights and to permit an atmosphere for all Egyptians to demonstrate their universal rights and freedoms.” She added that the interim government “has an… important opportunity to make the most of this political transition, and we urge them to take advantage of it for the benefit of all.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously denied that there have been any politically motivated arrests in Egypt. On Thursday it also denied that some activists were arrested for campaigning for a No vote in the constitutional referendum.
The US has been critical of the interim government on numerous occasions since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi last July. The Whitehouse decided last October to suspend the delivery of military equipment pending a transition towards a democratically elected civilian government.
Psaki refused to take a stance on the possible presidential candidacy of Minister of Defence Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi. She said, “Our position has not changed on the issue. It’s up to the Egyptian people to be the ones who decide who leads the country next.” She added that the US’ “focus remains on pressing the Egyptians to provide an opportunity…for people to express their views and cast their votes peacefully and without fear of intimidation or harassment.”
Al-Sisi said last week that he would run for president “if people demand it.”
Despite the criticism, the US has maintained that it supports the Egyptian people and interim government’s roadmap. Last week the US Congress announced a bill making $1.3bn of military aid available to Egypt in the 2014 fiscal year. Secretary of State John Kerry must make a determination on Egypt’s democratic progress before the delivery of the aid, one portion dependent on the holding of a constitutional referendum and the second on the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections.