Egypt to charge 43 over NGOs
Cairo (CNN) -- Forty-three people, including 19 Americans, face prosecution in an Egyptian criminal court on charges of illegal foreign funding as part of an ongoing crackdown on nongovernmental organizations, a prosecution spokesman said Sunday.
Those referred to court also include five Serbs, two Germans and three Arabs, said Adel Saeed, spokesman for the general prosecutor. The remaining people are Egyptian, he said.
The defendants include Sam LaHood, International Republican Institute country director and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Saeed said.
"We had been assured by leaders in the Egyptian government that this issue would be resolved, that harassment would end, that NGOs would be allowed to go back to business as usual and that their property would be returned," State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said last month. "It is, frankly, unacceptable to us that that situation has not been returned to normal."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson both spoke with high-ranking Egyptian officials following the raids to voice their concern.
Nuland said last month there are apparently "some Mubarak holdovers in the government who don't seem to understand how these organizations operate in a democratic society, and are putting out lots of disinformation about them."
Human Rights Watch called Sunday for Egyptian authorities to drop the charges and stop the criminal investigation into the NGOs.
"The Egyptian authorities are using a discredited Mubarak-era law to prosecute nongovernmental groups while proposing even more restrictive legislation," said Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch's deputy Middle East director, in a statement. "The government should stop using the old law, halt the criminal investigations and propose a law that respects international standards."
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt's ruling military council, assumed control of the government following the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak last year.
"We're being accused of things we've never done," IRI President Lorne Craner said last month. "We are told we have operated without registration, and that is true because we filed our registration papers five and a half years ago. We were told the papers are complete and we're still waiting."
"We've operated for 30 years, everywhere from (dictator Augusto) Pinochet's Chile to Nicaragua, to the Soviet Union when it was the Soviet Union, to Central Europe, to Indonesia under Suharto," he said. "We work in China, Belarus. This has never, ever happened in the 30 years where we get our offices raided. And Egypt is supposed to be an American friend."
Is the "Arab Spring" is having a late frost?
Egypt sends American workers to trial
CAIRO (AP) – Ignoring a U.S. threat to cut off aid, Egypt on Sunday referred 19 Americans and 24 other employees of nonprofit groups to trial before a criminal court on accusations they illegally used foreign funds to foment unrest in the country.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Egypt that failure to resolve the dispute may lead to the loss of American aid. The Egyptian minister, Mohammed Amr, responded Sunday by saying the government cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary.
"We are doing our best to contain this but … we cannot actually exercise any influence on the investigating judges right now when it comes to the investigation," Amr told reporters at a security conference in Munich, Germany. A few hours later, word of the referral to trials came.
The Egyptian investigation into the work of nonprofit groups in the country is closely linked to the political turmoil that has engulfed the nation since the ouster of Mubarak, a close U.S. ally who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years.
Egypt's military rulers have been under fire by liberal and secular groups for bungling what was supposed to be a transition to democracy after Mubarak's ouster. The ruling generals who took power after the uprising, led by a man who was Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years, have tried to deflect the criticism by claiming "foreign hands" are behind protests against their rule and frequently depict the protesters as receiving funds from abroad in a plot to destabilize the country.
Those allegations have cost the youth activists that spearheaded Mubarak's ouster support among a wider public that is sensitive to allegations of foreign meddling and which sees a conspiracy to destabilize Egypt in nearly every move by a foreign nation.
Egypt has just been plunged into a new cycle of violence with 12 killed in four days of clashes. The clashes were sparked by anger at the authorities inability to prevent a riot after a soccer match last week left 74 people dead.
International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga, a remnant of the Mubarak regime who retained her post after his ouster, is leading the crackdown on nonprofit groups. On Sunday, she vowed to pursue the issue to the very end. The investigation into the funding issue, she claimed, has uncovered "plots aimed at striking at Egypt's stability." [...]
When all else fails... blame the foreigners.