Foreigners among 43 NGO workers to be tried in Egypt

Cairo

Judges in Egypt are to put on trial 43 workers of non-government organisations, including 19 Americans and other foreign staff, for allegedly being involved in banned activities and illegally receiving foreign funds.

Among the Americans is Sam LaHood, the head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

A date has yet to be set for the start of the trial. All of the accused were served with travel bans.

The referral is the latest development in a long-running row between Washington and Cairo over an Egyptian crackdown on US-funded groups promoting democracy and human rights. On Saturday, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Egypt's Foreign Minister that failure to resolve the dispute may lead to the loss of American aid. Washington is due to give Egypt $1.3bn (£820m) in military assistance and $250m in economic aid in 2012. The Egyptian investigation is intertwined with Egypt's political turmoil since the ousting nearly a year ago of the former President Hosni Mubarak, a close US ally who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years.

The generals, who took power after Mr Mubarak's fall, have accused "foreign hands" of being behind protests against their rule, and frequently depict the protesters as receiving foreign funds as part of a plot to destabilise the country. Already, Egyptian authorities are preventing at least six Americans and four Europeans from leaving the country, citing an inquiry opened last month when heavily armed security forces raided the offices of 17 pro-democracy and rights groups. Egyptian officials have defended the raid as part of a legitimate investigation into the groups' work and funding.

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials said last night that the country's former President Hosni Mubarak will shortly be moved to a prison hospital as soon as the facility is upgraded to house the 83-year-old.

AP

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