A top United States Senate committee has said it is “deeply concerned” about the declining health of Salah Soltan, an Egyptian academic and US permanent resident who rights groups say has been arbitrarily detained in a Cairo-area prison.
Dozens of human rights organisations warned earlier this month that Soltan, 63, was “at risk of death” and urged the Egyptian authorities to immediately release him and provide “life-saving medical care”.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Democrat Bob Menendez, echoed that in a tweet from its official account on Thursday, warning that Soltan’s health was “rapidly declining … due to neglect in prison”.
“Egyptian authorities should release him and allow immediate access to lifesaving medical care,” the Twitter post said.
US President Joe Biden, who pledged to centre human rights in his foreign policy, has faced calls to pressure Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi over the country’s human rights record.
But while the Biden administration has offered some public criticism of Egypt, it has continued to view the country as a key ally. It also has not made any major overhauls to US military aid and sales to the Egyptian government.
“The US risks legitimizing Egypt’s abuses by continuing its near-total support,” Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, said in a statement on May 3, urging the Biden administration to press Cairo for Soltan’s release.
The Egyptian academic lived and worked in the US for more than a decade prior to his arrest in Egypt in 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in the same statement earlier this month.
Soltan was detained along with others who opposed the Egyptian military’s overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the time, security forces stormed a large protest gathering at Rabaa Square in the capital, Cairo, and shot hundreds of unarmed demonstrators, according to rights groups.
Soltan was sentenced to life in prison in September 2017 as part of a mass trial that has been criticised for violating the right to due process and for its inclusion of foreign nationals and journalists.
The Egyptian authorities also deported his son, prominent Egyptian-American rights advocate Mohamed Soltan, to the United States in May 2015. Mohamed was released from an Egyptian prison after going on a hunger strike in protest of his detention.