Reuters: Pro-democracy NGO Workers Allowed to Depart Egypt Depart Cyprus on Next Stage of Trip Home

American Activists Head Home After Cyprus Transit
Reuters: Africa
By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA — Three U.S. pro-democracy activists who flew out of Egypt after authorities lifted a travel ban, set off on the next stage of their journey home on Friday, leaving a transit stop in Cyprus, authorities on the island said.

The campaigners, who included Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, had been prevented from leaving Egypt, sparking the worst diplomatic rift between Washington and Cairo in decades.

Egyptian authorities had accused the activists of working for groups receiving illegal foreign funding.

But Egypt lifted the travel ban this week, defusing the row, and a group of 15 campaigners – eight Americans, three Serbs, two Germans, one Norwegian and one Palestinian – left Cairo on Thursday.

Three U.S. citizens, including LaHood, took a commercial flights out of Cyprus on Friday morning, a Cypriot official who requested anonymity said.

“The remainder will leave Cyprus in coming hours on commercial flights,” the official said. He said the campaigners would return to their countries but declined to give further details on their travel arrangements. There are no direct flights from Cyprus to the United States.

Members of the group did not speak to a Reuters reporter as they arrived at a private air terminal in Cyprus from Egypt, and were escorted away from the premises by U.S. embassy personnel.

U.S. officials had said the case, as long as it was unresolved, jeopardised $1.3 billion in annual military aid, a cash transfer that began flowing after Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979. Washington’s ties with Cairo were a pillar of its Middle East policy under U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed last year.

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