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$650M in military aid to Egypt blocked

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 9:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The chairman of a key Senate panel on Tuesday blocked $650 million in military aid for Egypt in a sign of Washington's ambivalence over support for the authoritarian military government in Cairo.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate subcommittee responsible for foreign aid, said in a speech on the Senate floor that he could not approve the release of the aid because an Egyptian court on Monday sentenced to death 683 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement of Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsy, in a widely criticized trial.

“We can't stand here and say, ‘Golly, gee whiz, we're disturbed by hundreds of people being sentenced to death after a few minutes in a mass trial,' ” Leahy said. “It shows a dictatorship run amok.”

The court in Minya sentenced the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and 682 of his fellow defendants to death for an attack on a police station and the death of an officer during clashes last year.

Secretary of State John Kerry, concerned about Cairo's human rights record but eager to support its crackdown on terrorism, last week freed up the aid. The money and 10 Apache helicopters had been held up for six months to build pressure for democratic reform. Although Congress can put a hold on the money, Kerry can send Egypt the helicopters.

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