Egypt lifts travel ban on US aid workers

Seven U.S. pro-democracy advocates facing trial in Egypt can now leave the country — after they post bail — in a move expected to help ease increasingly strained U.S.-Egypt relations.

A travel ban on the aid workers, including the son of a U.S. cabinet member, was lifted on Wednesday (Feb. 29). The seven, however, will need to pay $300,000 each in bail and sign pledges they will return for the trial’s next hearing in April, The Associated Press says.

A U.S. military plane was said to have been waiting at the Cairo International Airport to bring the aid workers home, the Wall Street Journal says, citing reports from Egypt’s state-owned newspaper Al Ahram. But a U.S. defense official in Washington could not, as of Wednesday, confirm the presence of the charted plane, WSJ adds.

The seven aid workers are among several local and foreign nongovernmental organization staff members referred to court by the Egyptian government. The aid workers were accused of using foreign funds to fuel unrest in Egypt. The seven, however, are the only Americans served with travel bans.

The lifting of the ban — something the U.S. State Department has been negotiating with Egyptian officials — could be a signal that the two countries are close to resolving a dispute that has put the future of U.S. aid to Egypt in limbo. Several U.S. officials, unhappy with Egypt’s move against the NGO workers, have been calling for the suspension of the $1.5 billion military and $250 million economic aid the United States provides the African country.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.