Egypt Sets Date for Trial of US Democracy Activists

Posted February 18th, 2012 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Egypt has announced it will go ahead with a trial of foreign democracy activists, including 19 Americans, in connection with an investigation into illegal funding of foreign non-governmental organizations.

The state news agency MENA said Saturday the hearing for the 43 defendants will take place on February 26. It said the defendants have been charged with establishing unlicensed chapters of international organizations and accepting foreign funding to finance the groups.

The American defendants have been banned from leaving Egypt after some of them left the country, and many have taken refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Among those accused is Sam LaHood, Egypt director of the International Republican Institute and son of the U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

The remaining 24 suspects include Germans, Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians.

The IRI was one of four U.S. offices raided on December 29, along with the U.S. based National Democratic Institute, human rights group Freedom House and the International Center for Journalists

The trial date announcement comes as the U.S. is attempting to establish better ties with the military council that took power last year following the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Washington supports the American defendants, warning that going forward with the trial could prompt a cut to Cairo's $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. Earlier this month, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey also made an unsuccessful bid for a solution during a trip to Cairo.

Egyptian officials, however, say the investigation uncovered a large amount of evidence of illegal funding from the United States, Europe and Arab countries.