Egypt to Try Civil Socieyt Workers

Egypt ‘to put on trial foreign NGO workers’

Egypt’s ruling military council has accused foreign groups of funding street protests against them.

It has raided the offices of several NGOs and banned a number of foreign staff from leaving the country.

Washington has warned it could review US aid to Egypt unless Cairo respects the rights of NGOs.

The announcement came on a fourth day of violent street protests in Egypt amid anger at the authorities’ perceived inability to prevent a riot at a football match last week that left 74 people dead.

Security forces fired tear gas at the thousands of rock-throwing protesters who were marching on the interior ministry in central Cairo.

Silencing critics?

There are conflicting reports as to the exact number of people to stand trial, with the AFP news agency quoting a source as saying the figure is 44.

They are accused of “setting up branches of international organisations in Egypt without a license from the Egyptian government” and of “receiving illegal foreign funding,” the AFP reports.

One of the 19 Americans to stand trial is, according to the Associated Press, Sam LaHood, the son of Transport Secretary Ray LaHood.

Mr LaHood heads the Egyptian office of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and was among several foreign workers banned from leaving Egypt just over a week ago.

The IRI and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), loosely associated with the US Republican and Democratic parties, were among 17 US-based and local foreign-funded groups whose offices were raided by prosecutors in late December.

Egyptian prosecutors said at the time they were acting on evidence suggesting some groups were violating Egyptian laws, including by not having permits.

But Cairo’s action has widely been seen as an attack on free speech and an attempt by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) to silence critics of its attempt to put down ongoing street protests.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated Washington’s warning that aid to Egypt would be reviewed.

The Associated Press also reports that five Serbs, two Germans and three non-Egyptian Arab nationals are among those to stand trial.

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