A U.S. citizen died in the custody of Egyptian authorities after being convicted of a crime he said he didn’t commit. Now, President Donald Trump’s secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is reportedly outraged.
According to Reuters, Pompeo was furious over the “pointless and tragic death” of U.S. citizen Moustafa Kassem — and he directed that anger toward Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
An outrage in Egypt
According to the Associated Press, Pompeo signaled to al-Sisi that the Trump administration has taken the death of Kassem seriously, and in a tweet Sunday, the secretary of State doubled down.
Met with President Sisi today and addressed the pointless and tragic death of detained U.S. citizen Moustafa Kassem in Egypt. On #Libya, President Sisi and I agreed on the urgent need for a return to a @UN-facilitated political process and a ceasefire. pic.twitter.com/xhhRxQhjwM
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 19, 2020
According to reports, Kassem was an auto parts dealer from Long Island, New York who was arrested by Egyptian police while on a family to trip Cairo in 2013.
He was apparently rolled up along with many others following a massive sit-in protesting the new al-Sisi military regime.
Kassem had long maintained his innocence and claimed that his imprisonment was wrongful and unjust. Unfortunately, his protests to the Egyptians fell on deaf ears, and he was recently convicted under a controversial anti-protest law used to silence dissent.
The conviction netted Kassem a 15-year sentence in an Egyptian prison, which prompted him to engage in a hunger strike in protest. It is believed that the protracted hunger strike directly resulted in the death of the 54-year-old man.
It remains unclear at this point what sort of ramifications — beyond sharp words from Pompeo — will come about in the wake of Kassem’s death in Egyptian custody.
The U.S. currently enjoys close diplomatic, military, and security ties with Egypt, and both Trump and al-Sisi have signaled respect for each other. That said, some are calling for more than just a rebuke from Pompeo, perhaps by way of a reduction in the estimated $1.2 billion in foreign aid that the U.S. grants to Egypt each year.
Whatever ends up coming as a result of Kassem’s death in an Egyptian prison, it has been made clear that the White House is not pleased with what occurred.
Odds are, this isn’t the last time we’ll be hearing about this.