Charleston’s Post and Courier Calls Charge Against Pro-democracy NGOs Absurd

Egypt’s Judicial Farce
The Post and Courier

Egypt’s absurd “criminal” charges against 43 foreign pro-democracy workers, including at least 16 Americans, send a troubling signal about a nation in transition. When their trial begins Sunday in Cairo, the international community will cast a wary eye on the proceedings.

Among the most concerned will be U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. His son Sam LaHood, who works for the International Republican Institute, is among the defendants accused of failing to register funds and/or operating their international organizations in Egypt without a license.

Yet as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman pointed out on our Commentary Page Thursday, those groups “filed their registration papers years ago under the autocracy of Hosni Mubarak.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was among members of Congress who met with Egyptian officials in Cairo Monday in an effort to resolve this mess. The senator, a member of the International Republican Institute Board, later accurately branded the charges of foreign meddling in domestic politics as “ridiculous” and “politically motivated.”

Freedom-loving people around the world, including Americans, celebrated last year when a resolute, massive wave of Egyptian protesters forced Mr. Mubarak to step down after three decades of increasingly repressive rule. The ideal outcome would have been a new government that granted Egyptians basic democratic rights that they had long been denied.

But as with the rest of the “Arab Spring,” hope for newfound liberty in the Mideast is significantly diluted by realism about radical Islamic fundamentalists gaining wide popular support for their anti-Israeli — and anti-American — aims.

Certainly the Muslim Brotherhood’s rising political power in the new Egypt casts an ominous cloud over this revolution.

However, the looming trial of those 43 non-profit workers apparently is the product of a self-serving Egyptian judiciary that retains, as Mr. Friedman put it, “a few retrograde Mubarak holdovers.” He also rightly condemned the prosecutor’s ludicrous account that the workers who are going on trial acted “in coordination with the CIA” to advance “U.S. and Israeli interests” and incite “religious tensions between Muslims and Copts” while “pandering to the U.S. Congress, Jewish lobbyists and American public opinion.”

The pandering here, though, is plainly to the Egyptian public in an effort to distract it from the nation’s serious problems, including a severe, protracted economic slump. Ending America’s current $1.3 billion aid package for Egypt’s military would be a drastic step.

But if Egypt persists in its outrageous charges against pro-democracy workers, our elected officials in Washington must start turning off the faucet.

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