Egypt announced that the criminal trial of 16 Americans and 27 others who worked for pro-democracy groups in Egypt will start on Feb. 26, according to the Associated Press.
A judicial source told Reuters that the charges against the accused are for working in Egypt “without proper legal registration.” Around 10 non-governmental organizations had their computers confiscated and their documents and funds seized in a crackdown on Dec. 29 last year.
The American activists on trial belong to four US-based groups, said the AP, including “the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House and a group that trains journalists.” Five of the accused groups allegedly received approximately $48 million in illegal funds, reported AFP.
The MENA news agency reported that the charges included, "establishing unlicensed chapters of international organizations and accepting foreign funding to finance these groups in a manner that breached the Egyptian state's sovereignty," according to AFP.
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The incident has put severe strains on US-Egypt relations, and American officials have threatened to cut the $1.5 billion in aid promised to Egypt over the trial.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri previously said his country would “apply the law” and “not back down” according to the BBC, despite a statement from three US senators that said, “The current crisis with the Egyptian government has escalated to such a level that it now threatens our long-standing partnership.”
AFP said the other workers who were charged include citizens of Germany, Serbia, Norway, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.
More on GlobalPost: Egypt proceeds with crackdown on pro-democracy groups