Egypt files charges against 19 Americans accused of running NGOs
Despite explicit warnings from top U.S. officials, Egypt will go ahead with trials of some 45 people accused of working for or running foreign-funded NGOs in the country, under a rule first imposed by deposed President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt is moving forward with plans to place 19 Americans and about 25 other Egyptian and foreign nationals on trial for establishing foreign-funded non-governmental organizations in Egypt.
The ruling military council has accused the NGOs of funding street protests against the regime and ordered the raids on the NGOs' offices. Employees adamantly deny any involvement on the part of the NGOs, which were invited into Egypt in the run-up to parliamentary elections. Now those same invited NGOs, more precisely their employees, are facing criminal charges for running a foreign-funded operation under a Hosni Mubarak-era law. The U.S. government had previously warned Egypt not to press criminal charges against the groups, lest they lose the $1.6 billion in aid the U.S. sends to Egypt every year.
So far, that's proven unpersuasive. U.S. State Department spokeswoman spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the government was "deeply concerned by these reports" of criminal charges being filed as was seeking clarification from Egyptian officials.
According to the BBC, Human Rights Watch criticized Egypt for its actions to prosecute the NGOs.
"Foreign funding is their lifeline. Egypt's military government is now using the kind of tactics used by Zimbabwe and Ethiopia to silence independent voices," the group said to the BBC.
Egypt has imposed a travel ban on all of the individuals facing charges, broadening a ban that had previously kept six Americans in the country involuntarily. At least three of them sought — and received — refuge and protection at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
The son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Sam LaHood is among those facing charges, though his whereabouts aren't presently publicly known. He was barred from leaving Egypt late last month.
According to the Associated Press, five Serbs, two Germans and three non-Egyptian Arabs are the other foreigners facing charges. The others facing charges are Egyptians.
The New York Times reports that so far no arrests have been made.
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