Americans face prosecution as Egypt ignores Clinton, Congress
Egypt is bringing criminal charges against at least 40 people, including some Americans, in a move that puts $1.3 billion in US military aid to Egypt at risk.
Egypt is bringing criminal charges against at least 40 people, including some American citizens, over the foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations, sharply raising the stakes in a standoff with the US that has put $1.3 billion in US military aid to Egypt at risk.Skip to next paragraph
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The workers at pro-democracy organizations are being charged with operating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) without licenses from the government and illegally receiving foreign funding, according to state media. The charges carry a sentence of up to five years in prison. The Associated Press reported that 19 Americans would be charged, while a state-owned newspaper said six.
The decision to move forward with prosecutions comes just a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Egypt’s foreign minister that Egypt’s crackdown on NGOs could affect US aid to Egypt. The US gives Egypt about $1.5 billion in aid every year, of which about $1.3 billion is military aid. Congress recently imposed conditions on the military aid, requiring the secretary of state to certify that the Egyptian government is supporting a transition to civilian government for the aid to go forward. US officials have said that if Egypt continues the crackdown, those conditions could not be met.
A trial of American citizens in Egypt would bring the tension to near breaking point at a critical juncture. The US is trying to preserve ties with Egypt after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime US ally. US officials have trod carefully with the military council that took power, hoping to preserve access amid a tumultuous time of transition.
But tension has been building for months, since the Egyptian government launched a smear campaign against US-funded organizations and began an investigation. The campaign is seen as being led by Fayza Aboul Naga, a cabinet minister who is a holdover from the Mubarak regime.
At least six Americans had been banned from leaving the country while an investigation into their work was ongoing. One of those was Sam LaHood, head of the Egypt office of International Republican Institute (IRI) and son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The Associated Press reports that LaHood, who took refuge in the US embassy after learning of the travel ban along with other American IRI staff, is among those who will be prosecuted.