FoxNews.com Talks to IRI’s Scott Mastic About Staff ‘Barred’ From Leaving Egypt
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s son barred from leaving Egypt after raid on advocacy group
By Judson Berger
The son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is among several Americans who have been barred from leaving Egypt following a raid on advocacy groups last month.
Sam LaHood has been the director of the International Republican Institute’s Egypt program since late 2010. The IRI’s offices, as well as the offices of nine other nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, were raided by the Egyptian government last month.
But the IRI found out over the weekend that the Egyptian government has gone on to create a “no-exit list” as part of that investigation. And Sam LaHood is on it.
When he tried to fly out of Egypt on Saturday for what was described as a “routine trip out of the country,” LaHood was told he could not travel, according to Scott Mastic, director of IRI’s Middle East division.
“He was told by the airport official that they have received instructions not to let him pass through passport control,” Mastic said.
Though he said the organization has not been able to see the whole no-exit list, IRI has learned that five of its members, including three Americans, are on it. Other non-Americans are also on the list. The existence of the list was confirmed by the group’s legal counsel in Egypt, Mastic said.
The no-exit list is the latest development in the fallout from the raids, which the Obama administration has condemned.
A State Department official told Fox News on Thursday that the U.S. embassy in Cairo has given consular assistance to those American citizens.
“Several U.S. citizens have been questioned by judges in connection with the Egyptian government’s investigation of NGOs and are currently restricted from leaving Egypt,” the official said. “We are working with the Government of Egypt to lift the travel restrictions and allow these individuals to come home as quickly as possible.”
In the raids, the Egyptian government confiscated equipment and closed offices at several of the sites. The groups were accused of operating without proper registration and using foreign funding, Mastic said. But he decried the raids as politically motivated and not “reflective of a legal process.”
Given the existence of the no-exit list, he said the groups are concerned about “further escalation.”
“We are very concerned about finding that there is a list preventing Americans from leaving Egypt,” Mastic said. “We are actively working to ask that this no-fly list be lifted, be removed.”
Mastic said his organization has been told the no-exit list would be lifted, but expressed doubt – given that prior assurances that the Egyptian government would return confiscated materials so far have not been honored.
“Frankly, at this point, we don’t have a lot of faith that that will happen in short order, because there’s just not been any signs of positive progress since the initial raids,” he said.
LaHood used to work as a press officer in the State Department.