The U.S. Department of Justice accuses Pierre Girgis of acting as a foreign agent for Egypt without notifying the U.S. government.
Authorities in the United States have arrested an Egyptian-American man from New York on allegations that he acted illegally on behalf of the Egyptian government to track down the “political opponents” of the country’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. .
The U.S. Department of Justice said it arrested Pierre Girgis (39) on Thursday.
Girgis is accused of conspiring to act as a foreign agent and acting as a foreign agent without notifying the U.S. Attorney General’s office – charges that could include up to five and 10 years in prison, respectively. wear.
“Agents from abroad are required to register with our government for a good cause – they often act in the interests of their home country and against those of the United States,” said Michael J Driscoll, assistant director-in-charge. at the FBI’s New York campaign office, said in a statement.
“We claim Mr. Girgis sent non-public information back to Egypt for the benefit of the Egyptian government. Mr. Girgis has broken our laws, and we must hold him accountable. “
The Justice Department said Girgis was “working on the leadership and control of various officials” in Egypt to gather information about Egyptian dissidents. The alleged activities took place between 2014 and 2019, the department said.
“On behalf of Egyptian officials, Girgis’ alleged illicit behavior included an attempt to secretly gather non-public intelligence on the activities of Egyptian President’s political opponents, and an attempt to gain access for foreign officials to only attend law enforcement training in Manhattan, “U.S. Attorney Damian Williams also said. said.
Al Jazeera could not reach Girgis or his lawyers. The Egyptian embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a U.S. law of 1938, requires individuals working on behalf of foreign governments in the United States to register with the Department of Justice and to regularly disclose their political activities in public.
The US and Egypt enjoy warm ties, with Washington providing $ 1.3 billion annually in military assistance to Cairo. US officials praise Egyptian government for playing a key role in the Middle East.
But US President Joe Biden has called for more to be done to press Egypt to respect human rights.
Law groups accuse el-Sisi’s government of imprisoning thousands of dissidents and banning virtually all forms of political opposition since it came to power in a 2013 coup. However, the Egyptian president denies detaining political prisoners and says his government is fighting “terrorism”.
Biden promised to sit human rights at the heart of US foreign policy, and before the 2020 election, he promised “no more blank checks to [Donald] Trump’s ‘favorite dictator’ ”with reference to el-Sisi.
But since coming to power, the Biden administration has said it is urging to strengthen US-Egypt partnerships.
Biden $ 130 million withheld out of the $ 1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt on human rights issues, but legal groups have called for at least $ 300 million to be suspended.
“If the administration’s commitment to human rights was sincere, this decision would have been simple: withhold the $ 300 million in military aid as conditioned by Congress to urge al-Sisi to change course.” a coalition of organizations said in September.