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Egypt lifts travel ban on U.S. NGO workers

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egypt has lifted a travel ban on American NGO workers who are charged with using foreign funds to incite violence in the country.

Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is one of the 16 American NGO employees whose case has been referred to a criminal trial in Egypt. They have been barred from leaving the country since Jan. 21.

The workers left Egypt Thursday on a plane sent for them by the United States. They reportedly were required to post a very substantial bond and promise to return for the trial.

Members of the U.S. Congress had threatened to cut off aid to Egypt over the detentions.

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 are accused of using foreign funds to support unrest in Egypt.

U.S. groups that were raided include the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute. Both had been invited to monitor the recent elections, but lacked a license to operate from the Egyptian government, which had been a requirement under the regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The United States provides approximately $1.5 billion in foreign assistance to the Egyptian government. Congress passed the foreign assistance for Egypt at the end of last year with several restrictions in place that could allow for the aid’s suspension if Egypt was not taking particular steps to ensure democracy in the country.

The assistance dates from Egypt’s 1979 peace accord with Israel and is conditional on its observance.
 

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