Egyptian judges quit NGO case as US keeps pressure

Egyptian judges quit NGO case as US keeps pressure

Egyptian judges quit NGO case as US keeps pressure

One of the fourteen Egyptian activists who worked in Egypt with civil society groups stand inside a cage during their trial in Cairo on Feb 26. AFP photo

The Egyptian judges trying dozens of democracy activists, including Americans, in a case that has strained ties with Washington recused themselves from the trial Feb. 28, throwing into question the case that has ripped U.S.-Egypt relations. The decision came as U.S. State of Secretary Hillary Clinton said they are moving toward a resolution “very soon” with Egypt.

Lead Judge Mohammed Shoukry said Feb. 28 that “the court felt uneasiness” in handling the case of the 43 foreign and Egyptian non-profit workers, according to the court official.

US push

The first session of the court took place on Feb. 26 and was adjourned to April 26, raising hopes among the activists’ supporters that the case could be dropped to spare further damage to Egypt’s ties with its ally Washington.

The defendants are charged with using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest that has roiled Egypt over the past year. The pro-democracy groups and the U.S. flatly deny the charges, and U.S. officials have hinted that foreign aid to Egypt is in jeopardy.

“We are engaged in very intensive discussions with the Egyptian government about finding a solution,” Clinton told a Senate committee hearing on the State Department’s proposed budget.

“We’ve had a lot of very tough conversations and I think we are moving toward a resolution,” the chief U.S. diplomat said.

“But I don’t want to discuss it in great detail because it’s important that they know that we are continuing to push them but that we don’t necessarily put it out into the public arena yet,” she added.