CAIRO – Ignoring a U.S. threat to cut off aid, Egypt on Sunday referred 19 Americans and 24 other employees of nonprofit groups to trial before a criminal court on accusations they illegally used foreign funds to foment unrest in the country.
Egyptian security officials said that among the Americans sent to trial is Sam LaHood, the head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former congressman from Illinois.
LaHood’s group called the decision “politically motivated” and said it “reflects escalating attacks against international and Egyptian democracy organizations.”
Egypt’s military rulers had already deeply strained ties with Washington with their crackdown on U.S.-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 decision to send 43 workers from the various groups to trials marks a sharp escalation in the dispute.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham 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.