Egypt to try 19 Americans
06 February 2012, 13:45
Cairo - Ignoring a US threat to cut off aid, Egypt
has referred 19 Americans and 24 other employees of non-profit groups to
trial before a criminal court on accusations they illegally used
foreign funds to foment unrest in the country.
rulers had already deeply strained ties with Washington with their
crackdown on US -funded groups promoting democracy and human rights and
accused of stirring up violence in the aftermath of the uprising a year
ago that ousted president Hosni Mubarak. The Sunday decision to send 43
workers from the various groups to trials marks a sharp escalation in
Egypt and the United States have been close allies
for more than three decades, but the campaign against the organisations
has angered Washington, and jeopardized the $1.5bn in aid Egypt is set
to receive from the US this year.
On Saturday, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton warned Egypt that failure to resolve the dispute
may lead to the loss of American aid. The Egyptian minister, Mohammed
Amr, responded Sunday by saying the government cannot interfere in the
work of the judiciary.
"We are doing our best to contain this but
... we cannot actually exercise any influence on the investigating
judges right now when it comes to the investigation," Amr told reporters
at a security conference in Munich, Germany. A few hours later, word of
the referral to trials came.
The Egyptian investigation into the
work of non-profit groups in the country is closely linked to the
political turmoil that has engulfed the nation since the ouster of
Mubarak, a close US ally who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years.
military rulers have been under fire by liberal and secular groups for
bungling what was supposed to be a transition to democracy after
Mubarak's ouster. The ruling generals who took power after the uprising,
led by a man who was Mubarak's defence minister for 20 years, have
tried to deflect the criticism by claiming "foreign hands" are behind
protests against their rule and frequently depict the protesters as
receiving funds from abroad in a plot to destabilise the country.
allegations have cost the youth activists that spearheaded Mubarak's
ouster support among a wider public that is sensitive to allegations of
foreign meddling and which sees a conspiracy to destabilise Egypt in
nearly every move by a foreign nation.
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