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U.S. senators urge release of political prisoners in Egypt

Published: Updated:

U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham urged Egypt’s military-backed government to release jailed members of the Muslim Brotherhood and called on rival parties in the country to engage in a national dialogue and avoid violence.

McCain and Graham met with top military and civilian leaders in Cairo as part of international efforts to resolve a standoff with supporters of the ousted President Mohammad Mursi.

“Democracy is the only viable path to stability,” said McCain, a former presidential candidate, calling for “an inclusive political process in which all Egyptians are free to participate,” AFP reported.

Both lawmakers referred to the military’s July 3 ouster of Mursi as a “coup,” something their government has been reluctant to do as it would have legal implications for the $1.3 billion dollars (977 million euros) in U.S. aid to Egypt.

“The people who are in charge were not elected, and the people who were elected are now in jail,” Graham told reporters.

“We urge the release of political prisoners,” said McCain, referring to Brotherhood members who have been detained since Mursi’s ouster by the military on July 3, the Associated Press reported.

“In a democracy, you have to talk to each other. It is impossible to talk to somebody in jail,” Graham said.

“The judicial system will deal with this in the future. Jailing opposition is not the exercise of a legitimate power,” he said.

Mursi has been formally remanded on suspicion of offences committed when he escaped from prison during the 2011 revolt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

Prosecutors have also set an August 25 date for the trial of the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and his two deputies.

Egypt’s political crisis, sparked by the military’s July 3 overthrow of Mursi, has paralyzed the country and deepened political polarization and social divisions.

Mursi loyalists, mostly Brotherhood members, say the ouster of the country’s first freely elected president violates democratic principles and nothing short of his reinstatement would end their sit-ins.

The interim leadership says there is no turning back on the army-drafted roadmap that provides for new elections in 2014.

More than 250 people have been killed since Mursi’s ouster.

(With AP and AFP)