FEBRUARY 29 2012 14:29h
Judge abandons Egypt NGO case
Presiding Judge Mohammed Shukri made the formal request Wednesday without providing a reason, Egypt's state television reported.
Among those who were detained in an Egyptian investigation of non-governmental organizations funding irregularities was Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The younger LaHood was among several Americans barred from leaving Egypt about two weeks ago and had sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to avoid arrest; other U.S. citizens managed to leave the Middle Eastern country.
The announcement came little more than two months after the NGOs were raided by Egyptian security forces, Bikyamasr.com reported.
Forty-three defendants were charged by Egypt with operating local offices of international non-governmental organizations without required licenses and illegally receiving and distributing foreign funds. If convicted, they could face a financial penalty and a possible five years in prison.
The U.S. government had been working in the diplomatic realm to try to secure the release of its citizens, but had expressed frustration about the crackdown by Egypt's ruling military panel on NGOs. Several U.S. senators used a previously scheduled trip to Egypt to discuss the situation with Egyptian leaders.
Tensions over the matter between the United States and Egypt have risen in recent weeks.
Before the judge abandoned the case, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a Senate hearing Washington was serious when it threatened to cut off $1.55 billion in annual aid to Egypt if a resolution wasn't reached soon.
Cairo said it might retaliate against Washington's possible aid cutoff by reassessing its 1978 Camp David peace treaty with Israel.
The American defendants work for four U.S. groups. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute are chartered as democracy-building organizations and have close ties to U.S. congressional leaders. The other two are Freedom House, which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, and the International Center for Journalists, devoted to journalism training to raise journalism standards.
CAIRO, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- The trial in Cairo of 43 non-government organization workers, including 19 Americans, has been abandoned, Egyptian officials said.