Egypt slaps travel ban on NGO staff


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The Independent Online

Egypt's ruling Military Council has imposed a travel ban on several foreign non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers – including the son of the US Transportation Secretary – in a move which risks further inflaming political tensions between America and one of its key Middle East allies.

The ban, which covers at least 10 American and European NGO staff, forms part of a wider campaign of intimidation that the Egyptian government is accused of waging against civil society in recent months.

In December police raided the offices of a number of foreign civil rights organisations in Cairo, hauling workers in front of judges for questioning.

"It's bad enough that a month ago there was a raid on our headquarters in the country," said Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Washington-based NGO funded by the US government which provides political training programmes. "Then they had people brought in for questioning, and now there's this no-fly list."

The Egypt director of IRI, Sam LaHood, who is the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, learned of the travel ban last week when he tried to leave Egypt through Cairo airport but was told by an official it was not possible. An hour later he was escorted out of the airport by a man in civilian clothes.

The travel ban also applies to the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, both NGOs funded by the US government, and workers for Egyptian civil organisations.