US Pro-Democracy Workers on Trial in Egypt
Despite intense talks and other pressure, the new Egyptian government is adamant: 19 American employees of pro-democracy NGOs are to be tried on on Sunday, although not all will be in the courtroom, said their attorney, Negad El-Borei. They will be charged with illegally receiving foreign funds and working in Egypt without licensing, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.
A total of 45 nonprofit organization workers, including Egyptian employees, are accused of receiving salaries paid illegally by foreign governments. The charges include accusation of subversive activities and carrying out political activities unrelated to civil society functions. All were slapped with a travel ban and were forbidden to leave the country pending trial, although some were already abroad when the ban was enacted.
Over the past three days, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met twice with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, a senior U.S. source said on condition of anonymity.
American and Egyptian military leaders also previously met for talks on the issue in Washington D.C., but made no progress. Both the country's ruling Supreme Military Council and its parliamentary leaders have said that since the case was initiated by the judiciary, they have no jurisdiction over the matter.
The case revolves around the issue of foreign funding of pro-democracy groups and their encouragement of activities that affect the country's political system. The organizations contend that their activities are aimed at civil society initiatives. Egyptian judicial officials, however, have accused the groups of plotting to undermine the new Islamist-controlled Egyptian government – a conspiracy theory vigorously denied by both the NGOs and the U.S. government.
Among the targeted groups are the International Republic Institute (IRI) – led by Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).