Hollow assurance: Kerry cozies up in Egypt to foes of democracy

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Last week, an Egyptian court sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists to a collective 24 years of prison on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and false reports. The widely condemned trial featured almost no evidence from prosecutors, though judicial legitimacy is clearly not the goal of a military-backed regime intent on crushing all dissent.

Embarrassingly, the sentencing came the day after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Egypt to warmly welcome Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and announce the resumption of U.S. military aid. Mr. Kerry seemed almost giddy to meet Mr. Sisi, going beyond his prepared speech to express enthusiasm for the new regime. Not only did he say that he and the president were “committed to be helpful” but Mr. Kerry also vouched for Mr. Sisi’s commitment to a “re-evaluation of human rights legislation” and “re-evaluation of the judicial process.”

Of course, the president whom Mr. Sisi deposed in a military coup, Mohammad Morsi, was not the Egyptian George Washington. He wrongly sought to consolidate power for the Muslim Brotherhood away from the judiciary and parliament, but he was Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. Mr. Sisi represents a return to the military-backed, authoritarian government that already seems more repressive than either Mr. Morsi or Hosni Mubarak.

The United States should not lend its credibility to a government that has relentlessly stifled press freedoms and free speech. More than 1,000 demonstrating Egyptians have been massacred by security forces since last year, and Egyptian courts sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and leaders to death in sham trials in March.

Mr. Kerry’s enthusiasm might be the result of defense industry lobbying or his view of American interests in the Middle East more than his personal liking of Egypt’s harsh governance. In either case, America’s professed devotion to democracy seems hollow when its leading diplomat can share smiles with a man like Mr. Sisi.


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