[ 2012-02-26 ]
Egypt begins trial of foreign, Egyptian activists
CAIRO (AFP) - Dozens of democracy activists
including Americans go on trial in Egypt on Sunday
on charges of receiving illegal funding, despite
pleas from Washington that the charges be
Judicial sources say the 43 activists who worked
with civil society groups, among them 19 American
citizens, will stand trial before a Cairo court.
An official with one of the targeted US groups,
who requested anonymity, said that only seven of
the American defendants are still in the country,
the others apparently having left before a travel
ban was imposed on the suspects.
Several of the American suspects have sought
refuge in their country's embassy in Cairo,
including Sam LaHood, son of US Secretary of
Transportation Ray LaHood and head of the Egyptian
chapter of the International Republican
Negad El-Borai, a lawyer for some of the US
defendants, said he did not expect his clients to
attend the hearing.
"I don't expect them to come, given the way things
are going," he told AFP. None of the Americans
have been arrested, but they and the other
suspects are banned from leaving the country."
Egyptian citizen Nancy Okail, who heads the
country's chapter of the US-based democracy
advocacy group Freedom House, said she would
attend the trial which is expected to start after
noon in a Cairo suburb.
"I want to stand for this battle. I don't think I
have anything to hide," she told AFP.
The United States, the main foreign benefactor of
Egypt's military rulers, has suggested that the
trial of the activists may imperil that aid.
Washington provides about $1.3 billion annually in
military aid to Cairo, in addition to development
A senior US administration official said in the
Moroccan capital Rabat late on Saturday that
"intense" talks were under way to resolve the
issue of the democracy activists.
"Intense discussions (are being held) with the
Egyptians to try to resolve the situation within
days," the official said.
The other foreign non-governmental organisations
targeted are the US-based International Centre for
Journalists and the German Konrad-Adenauer
The defendants also include Egyptians, Germans,
Palestinians, Norwegians and Serbs.
Some of the groups had helped to train activists
and political candidates to campaign for
parliamentary elections that began last November,
in Egypt's freest vote in decades.
US legislators and Egyptian activists say the
trial is politically motivated.
Prosecutors, backed by police, raided the groups'
offices in December, confiscating equipment and
sealing their doors.
In a visit to Cairo last week, US Republican
Senator John McCain said he was told by military
ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi that he was
working "diligently" to resolve the issue.
But political intervention in the case would belie
the authorities' claim they do not interfere with
the independent judiciary, which already faces one
of its greatest tests in the murder and corruption
trial of ex-president Hosni Mubarak.
Source - AFP
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