Egypt charges 44 NGO workers with illegal activities,

"breach of the law cited – illegal foreign funding – is not used against suspected support for religious groups from wealthy Gulf countries" 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a joint press conference in Sofia  

Egypt's post-revolutionary authorities have set it on a collision course with Washington, its erstwhile ally, by deciding to charge 44 NGO workers including 19 Americans with illegal activities.

The security situation in Egypt was high on the agenda of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the scheduled talks in Sofia with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov Photo: AFP/GETTY

One of the American NGO workers under investigation is Sam LaHood, son of the only Republic member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, Ray LaHood, the transport secretary, pictured Photo: REX

Ray LaHood

One of the American NGO workers under investigation is Sam LaHood, son of the only Republic member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, Ray LaHood, the transport secretary.  

He and other employees of the International Republican Institute (IRI) are currently being sheltered in the US embassy in Cairo, raising the prospect of a legal and diplomatic stand-off.

Judicial sources told the state news agency cases for unlicensed activity and receipt of foreign funding had been transferred to the Cairo criminal court.  

Foreign NGOs and think tanks, including pro-democracy groups, have operated in a legal grey area for years in Egypt without judicial hindrance but a number, including the IRI, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is linked to the ruling Christian Democratic party in Germany, were raided in late December. Human rights activists fear the raids are revenge for their links to secular pro-democracy movements in Egypt.

They complain that the breach of the law cited – illegal foreign funding – is not used against suspected support for religious groups from wealthy Gulf countries.

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, has already said the issue may lead to America pulling its substantial military aid to Egypt's army, and the issue has caused outrage in Congress, where it is seen as another sign of the country slipping out of America's orbit at the hands of the very institution it has financially supported for years.

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said last night: "From our point of view it is unacceptable to harm organisations that have a real international mission which they take on seriously."

In another move, the authorities have indicated they are to move the former president, Hosni Mubarak, from the military hospital where he is staying during his trial for murder to the hospital at the central Tora Prison.

The move is seemingly a concession to pro-democracy activists, who continued to attack the interior ministry in Cairo on Sunday in protest at police failures which led to the deaths of 74 people in a football riot last Wednesday.


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