Egypt: NGO workers can leave the country


One of fourteen Egyptian activists who worked in Egypt with civil society groups stands inside a cage during their trial in Cairo on February 26, 2012. Egypt started the trial of dozens of democracy activists including Americans on charges of receiving illegal foreign funding, despite Washington's insistence that the charges be dropped. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images


Khaled Desouki

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Egypt rescinded a travel ban on American NGO workers accused of using foreign money to foment political unrest, according to a judicial source quoted by Reuters. "The assistant to the attorney general, following a request from the investigating judges, has issued an order to lift the ban," the source said.

Sixteen Americans were charged, but only seven remained in the country. Twenty-seven others were also charged, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, Egyptian officials said the US posted nearly $5 million in bail to win the release of the sixteen, at a price of $300,000 each. The seven still remaining in the country were transported to Cairo airport in a convoy of white vans, said the AP.

The reversal comes the same day that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she expected the controversy would be solved "in the very near future."

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The judges in the trial of the NGO workers recused themselves earlier today, according to GlobalPost, citing "uneasiness." The trial had been adjourned until April 26.

The Americans were accused of conducting political activities without government authorization, but the charges and detention frayed already strained US-Egypt relations. Members of Congress indicated that the future of Egypt's annual $1.3 billion in American aid was at jeopardy as a result of the trials. One of the workers who sought refuge in the American embassy in Cairo was Sam LaHood, the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

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