Shhhh…

(Reuters) – Secretary of State John Kerry quietly acted last month to give Egypt $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, deciding that this was in the national interest despite Egypt’s failure to meet democracy standards.

Kerry made the decision well before an Egyptian court this week convicted 43 democracy workers, including 16 Americans, in what the United States regards as a politically motivated case against pro-democracy non-governmental organizations.

Rights groups believe Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is retreating from democratic freedoms, notably in a new civil society law and in proposals for judicial reform that critics see as a way to purge judges perceived as hostile to the government.

Despite stating in a May 9 memo that “we are not satisfied with the extent of Egypt’s progress and are pressing for a more inclusive democratic process and the strengthening of key democratic institutions,” Kerry said the aid should go forward.

Under U.S. law, for the $1.3 billion to flow the secretary of state must certify that the Egyptian government “is supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law.”