The ruling military junta in Egypt is moving ahead with criminal prosecutions of dozens of foreigners, including more than 15 Americans, working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — all of which are funded with American or European taxpayer money — despite U.S. threats to cut off aid. The trials are set to begin on February 26, according to judicial sources cited in news reports.
Several top U.S. officials have been to Egypt recently in a failed bid to secure the release of the suspects. And this week, a group of U.S. Senators including John McCain (R-Ariz.) arrived in Cairo to keep the pressure up, even as bilateral relations between the two governments have sunk to their lowest point in decades.
The defendants include more than 40 people working for groups that receive U.S. government funding: The International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and Freedom House. Employees of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation — financed by German taxpayers — are also in the crosshairs.
The suspect who has attracted the most media attention so far is Sam LaHood, chief of the IRI’s Egyptian branch and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He reportedly took refuge at the American embassy in Cairo as the “transitional” rulers began to crack down on foreign-funded NGOs late last year and raided offices and issued travel bans against suspects in a criminal investigation.
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