Americans in Egypt NGO case free to travel

Feb. 29, 2012 at 4:33 PM
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CAIRO, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- An Egyptian lawyer Wednesday said seven Americans employed by U.S.-financed non-profit groups may leave the country.

Earlier, officials said the trial of 43 non-government organization workers, including 19 Americans, had been abandoned. The developments suggest the United States and Egypt apparently have worked out a way to resolve the crisis that threatened to undermine decades of friendly diplomatic relations, The New York Times reported.

During testimony Wednesday on Capitol Hill about the State Department's budget, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told a House appropriations subcommittee she was optimistic the matter would be "resolved shortly" so $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt would not be jeopardized. About $1.3 billion of that is military assistance.

"Once we make progress on the NGO issues, then we can have a broader discussion both with the Congress and with the Egyptian government. Of course, one of our problems is we don't really have an Egyptian government to have a conversation with," Clinton said.

Egyptian officials had kept the Americans and several European nationals from leaving the country since December, following government raids on the Cairo offices of several pro-democracy non-government organizations including Freedom House, the International Republican Institute and the Washington-headquartered National Democratic Institute.

Hafez Abu Saada, an Egyptian human rights lawyer, told The Washington Post judicial authorities had agreed to allow the foreigners to travel out of the country if they each posted $322,000 bail.

"The case is still ongoing," he said.

Among those who were detained in the Egyptian investigation was Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Forty-three defendants were charged by Egypt with operating local offices of international non-governmental organizations without required licenses and illegally receiving and distributing foreign funds.

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