Egypt seems to have turned a deaf ear to U.S. pleas and warnings on the case of nongovernmental organizations and Americans in the country. On Sunday (Feb. 5), it referred 43 people to trial before a criminal court.
The 43 people, which include 19 Americans — including Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — five Serbs, two Germans and three non-Egyptian Arabs, are all banned from leaving the country. They are accused of using foreign funds illegally to foment unrest. The date of the trial has yet to be set.
The move comes even after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a warning that failure to resolve the NGO issue may lead to the loss of U.S. aid to the country. It also comes after a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urging the administration to withhold aid to Egypt until the country allows the NGOs to re-open their offices, return all confiscated property and end the investigations on the NGOs in question. A copy was also sent to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein, the head of the military council that ruled Egypt post-Hosni Mubarak.
The United States is set to provide $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid to the country this 2012. But Egypt, which is in deep financial difficulty, does not seem to be interested in the assistance. Instead of trying to resolve the dispute that arose after Egytian forces raided NGO offices in December, it continued to escalate the problem by banning Americans from leaving the country. Egyptian Justice Minister Adel Abdelhamid Abdallah even returned the letter sent to him by U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson last week. The letter was to request the minister to end the travel ban on the Americans under investigation.
Egypt’s nonchalant attitude over the assistance is not surprising, given the aid pledges it has received of late.
Last week, Egyptian Minister Momtaz al-Saeed announced the European Union is preparing an aid package worth $650 million. The assistance will be used to boost the country’s struggling economy.
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