AL ARABIYA NEWS - SATURDAY, 3 March 2012
Egypt’s parliament says it will probe whoever intervened to allow
foreign NGOs go
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES
Egypt’s parliament is to probe and “hold accountable” anyone who
intervened to allow foreign activists on trial to leave the country, the
house speaker said on Saturday.
Saad al-Katatni said parliament would summon officials to explain the
decision and “hold accountable those responsible for this crime, which
represented a blatant intervention in the affairs of Egypt’s judiciary.”
After months of pressure from Washington, about 15 of the foreign
defendants including Americans were allowed to fly out of Cairo airport
on Thursday after posting bail, sparking outrage in Egypt.
“We cannot accept any type of foreign intervention in Egypt’s affairs,”
Katatni, an Islamist, told a joint session of parliament and the senate.
“This case cannot be ended with a political decision.”
The trial, in which the activists were accused of receiving illicit
foreign funds to operate unlicensed NGOs, caused a crisis in relations
between the United States and its close Middle Eastern ally.
The case put at risk $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Egypt,
a cash transfer that began flowing after Egypt made peace with Israel in
1979, and it marked the deepest rift in U.S.-Egyptian relations in decades.
Egyptian authorities had insisted they could not intervene in a judicial
matter, but the trial, which opened last Sunday, began to unravel as the
judges stepped aside and a travel ban on the defendants was lifted.
The foreigners were rushed through Cairo airport on to a private plane
after having each posted bail of two million pounds (around $330,000 or
The official Al-Ahram newspaper said the judges recused themselves after
they were requested to lift the travel ban, outraging Egyptians across
the political spectrum at alleged political interference.
A new panel of judges to try the case is expected to be announced on
Saturday, but the Cairo appeals court head, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, has
suggested a misdemeanor court may take over the proceedings.
The defendants had been charged under the penal code, which could have
led to jail sentences of up to five years.
Bail by U.S.
Meanwhile, the bail paid for U.S. pro-democracy activists facing charges
in Egypt ultimately came from the U.S. government, the State Department
said on Friday.
The travel ban was lifted this week and the U.S. State Department on
Friday said 13 foreign workers ̶ six of them U.S. citizens ̶ had left
Egypt on a private plane. The amount of bail paid for the U.S. citizens
was set at about $330,000 each.
Out of a total of 43 foreign and Egyptian workers who have been charged
in the case, 16 were U.S. citizens and seven of those were in Egypt and
had been subject to the travel ban. One of the seven chose to remain in
Egypt, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
The State Department declined to name the people, some of whom worked
for the IRI and the National Democratic Institute, U.S.-funded
nongovernmental organizations that seek to promote democracy abroad.
Nuland said the money to pay the bail ultimately came from the U.S.
government, saying that the Obama administration had agreed to treat the
legal expenses stemming from the incident “as part of the activities
that the U.S. government funds.”
“The NGOs paid the bail out of money that they received from the U.S.
government,” she said.
“We agreed to this because the situation arose in the context of the
democracy promotion work that they were doing that we had funded and
Nuland said that it was up to the U.S. citizens who had left to decide
whether to return to Egypt to face the charges.
She was unable to say whether the money would be forfeited to the
Egyptian government if they did not, or whether the money would be
returned to the NGOs or to the U.S. government if they return to stand
“Our hope and expectation is that we can get this case dismissed,” she
said, saying that if it was dismissed the questions about the bail would
“presumably” be resolved.