Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Egypt lifts travel ban on Americans, lawyers say

CAIRO — At least seven Americans employed by pro-democracy groups in Egypt who have been under criminal investigation will be allowed to leave the country, Egyptian lawyers involved in the case said Wednesday, suggesting that Washington and Cairo might be close to resolving the controversy.

Egypt barred the Americans and several European citizens from leaving the country after authorities raided the Cairo offices of several foreign-funded non-governmental organizations in December. They included the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House.

The probe triggered threats from outraged U.S. lawmakers who threatened to cut off the $1.3 billion Egypt gets in U.S. military aid each year.

Hafez Abu Saada, a lawyer representing some of the 43 defendants, said the judicial authorities agreed to lift the travel ban on foreigners as long as each paid a roughly $332,000 bail.

“The case is still ongoing,” said Abu Saada, a human rights lawyer who represents three of the Egyptians from Freedom House charged in the case.

Negad el Borai, another lawyer who represents IRI and Freedom House, confirmed in a tweet that the travel ban will be lifted if the foreigners pay the bail amount.

The Associated Press first reported the travel ban would be lifted Wednesday night, citing unnamed Egyptian officials, but it was unclear whether it would actually happen.

A spokesman for the Egyptian general prosecutor’s office said Wednesday night that it was not up to them to lift the travel ban, distancing the office from the apparent decision to allow the foreigners to leave. The case began with investigative judges and the prosecution has no hand in the case, said spokesman Adel el Said on state television.

Phone calls to investigative Judge Ashraf Ashmawy, one of the judges overseeing the case, went unanswered on Wednesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration could not yet confirm a deal with Egyptian authorities.

“I would note that we have worked this issue very hard with our Egyptian counterparts,” Carney told reporters. “It has been a priority of the president to resolve this. And we have made clear throughout the process — Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Panetta and others — that we consider it a very serious matter and that it had the potential of affecting our relationship.”

Carney declined to comment further, saying he didn’t “want to get too far ahead of these reports until we have more details.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday she was hopeful a resolution was near.

“We believe we will resolve this issue concerning our NGOs in the very near future,” Clinton said on Capitol Hill during testimony about the State Department's budget. “That is my best assessment sitting here today.”

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo declined to comment.

On Tuesday a three-judge panel overseeing the case pulled out, saying they were “embarrassed,” in a memo to Cairo’s Court of Appeals. The court case is to be reassigned to another court.

The Egyptian government has accused the groups of working illegally in Egypt, taking illegal funds, doing illegal political work and sowing unrest in Egypt. Although none of the groups are officially licensed, they say they have worked to get registered and have denied the accusations of nefarious foreign funding.

By Leila Fadel, Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 9:55 PM
Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report from Washington.
The Original article on Washington Post

In my opinion ( the site owner ) It was a political game from the beginning to hide their crimes .. the revolution will never stop until they leave


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