CAIRO (Dispatches) – Twenty-three Egyptians are still in prison more than 19 days after the a Cairo criminal court acquitted them in the case known in the media as “Helwan Brigades,” Ikhwan Online news website reported.
On 28 June the court sentenced ten defendants to death, 56 defendants to life in prison and handed prison terms to ten others. It acquitted 43 in the same case.
Twenty-three of the 43 acquitted defendants were set to be released because there are no other sentences issued against them that would have required their continued detention.
The defendants were accused of forming brigades in the province of Helwan to carry out militant operations and acts of vandalism.
The development comes as over 50 U.S. and UK lawmakers called on President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step up efforts to press Egypt to stop human rights abuses in a letter published on Senator Tammy Baldwin’s web page.
The letter called on the two leaders to intensify efforts to lift arbitrary and unjust travel bans, asset freezes and lengthy pretrial detention which many activists, lawyers and others have been subject to.
“We ask you to leverage your strong relationship with Egypt to help end these unlawful and unjust punitive actions,” the letter said.
Egypt and the U.S. are close allies with Cairo having received the second highest amount of American aid for decades.
At the beginning of this year Biden authorized a $2.5 billion arms sale to Egypt, to the dismay of the rights community and politicians who viewed it as a blank cheque for the authoritarian ruler.
Egypt and the UK are also close allies with the British government licensing roughly $300 million worth of arms to Egypt between 2011 and 2021.
This escalation in the abuse of travel bans and asset freezes are “negatively impacting American and British families, universities and civil society,” the letter goes on to say.