CAIRO (MCT) — Americans working for pro-democracy groups in Egypt have been ordered to stand trial on criminal charges of receiving illicit funding, a move certain to further strain relations between Washington and Cairo’s ruling army generals.
The provocative decision by investigating judges comes as the U.S. has threatened to suspend $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egypt’s military. It also highlights the widening divide between Washington and one of its closest allies at a time of political upheaval across North Africa and the Middle East.
The Associated Press reported that judges have ordered that 43 people — 19 of them American—be prosecuted for allegedly violating laws governing funding for nongovernmental organizations working in Egypt. One of them is believed to be Sam LaHood, the Egyptian director of Washington-based International Republican Institute and son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The younger LaHood and other Americans working for the IRI sought haven last month at the U.S. embassy for fear that they might be arrested following a travel ban placed upon them. Employees at two other U.S. based groups — Freedom House and the National Democratic Institute — are also under investigation.
The judges’ ruling came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Egypt of possible consequences if the matter is not resolved.
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