01/07/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – This week, FBI agents arrested an Egyptian man living in New York for illegally collecting information on opponents of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, according to a report from ABC News. The man, Pierre Girgis, was allegedly sending information to Egyptian officials in Sisi’s government, known for its abuses of human rights including religious freedom and freedom of speech.
According to the criminal charges brought against him, Girgis “operated at the direction and control of multiple employees of the Egyptian government” by informing them on critics of the Egyptian government in the United States. Although the State Department did not comment on the details of the arrest, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told ABC News that they are “seeking to hold to account countries that would pursue dissidents, that would undertake such activity extraterritorially.”
This arrest marks a pattern on the part of the Egyptian government to seek out and silence dissenters when criticizing the government. Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced three human rights activists to prison for their advocacy against the government’s human rights abuses. Ramy Kamel, an outspoken advocate for Egypt’s heavily persecuted Coptic Christian community, has been held in detention by Egyptian authorities for more than two years for speaking out against the government’s record on human rights.
In its 2021 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that Egypt be placed on the State Department’s Special Watch List for countries whose governments “engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom,” according to USCIRF’s report. Despite this recommendation, the State Department has not made such a designation.
The United States has said that it would put pressure on Egypt human rights abuses moving forward, threatening to withhold military aid to the country unless improvements were made. Mr. Girgis’ arrest is perhaps a way to send a message to Egypt and the Sisi government that the United States intends on taking these violations seriously.
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