NGO employees from U.S. prevented from leaving Egypt

(JTA) – Egyptian authorities are preventing several Americans working for NGOs from leaving the country, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Sam LaHood and the others have been barred from leaving since Jan. 21. Politico reported Thursday that President Obama and other top administration have tried to resolve the dispute.

Egyptian government forces on Dec. 29 raided the offices of 17 foreign NGOs, including U.S. groups that monitored recent parliamentary elections there, according to Politico. The offices were shut down and the employees questioned.

The forces reportedly seized computers, documents and cash; the groups reportedly are accused of using foreign funds to support unrest in Egypt.

The younger LaHood works as director of the Egyptian program for the International Republican Institute, a nongovernmental organization with close ties to the Republican congressional leadership, according to Politico.

“Several U.S. citizens and others are currently not being allowed to depart Egypt in connection with the government’s investigation into NGOs,” a State Department official told Politico. “We are disappointed that these restrictions were imposed, and we are working with the government of Egypt to lift them and allow these Americans to come home as quickly as possible. We hope to have this issue resolved within the next couple of days. Our embassy in Cairo continues to monitor this matter closely.”

Egyptian officials are claiming the investigation is into foreign influence during the recent Egyptian elections. Politico quotes unnamed sources as saying the dispute is over U.S. aid and who controls it.

Since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was deposed a year ago, the U.S. government has been giving funds directly to Egyptian nonprofit groups instead of going through the Egyptian government.

Reports in the Egyptian media investigations say that the investigations into about 40 foreigners will go to court next month.

Other U.S. groups that were raided include the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.

 

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