Foreign NGO suspects leave Egypt
CAIROSeven U.S. pro-democracy activists who had been on trial in Egypt were in Greek Cyprus on March 2 after flying out of Cairo following the U.S. posted nearly $5 million in bail for them and nine others who managed to leave before a travel ban was imposed.
The departure of the seven on March 1, eased a deep diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Egypt that had been building for two months, following a crackdown on pro-democracy and human rights groups by the Egyptian government. The activists arrived on a private plane overnight and were due to fly out “soon” the same day, told the Greek Cypriot airport official. The official said the private aircraft was due to leave on March 2, without mentioning the other nationals.
Though the Americans were safely on their way home, Washington indicated that its anger over the affair has not abated. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed relief that the Americans were free, but she pointedly noted that no decision has been made about U.S. aid to Egypt. As the crisis unfolded over the past two months, furious officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, warned the $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic assistance slated for Egypt this year was in jeopardy. Nuland pointed out Thursday that the court case against the pro-democracy groups is not over.
The activists worked with five foreign NGOs accused of receiving illicit foreign funds and operating without licenses. Four of the groups are American and the remaining one is German, and there are 43 defendants altogether.