American defendants in NGO case on their way back to US

The Americans who were accused of receiving illegal foreign funding for civil society organizations arrived at Cairo Airport on Thursday to leave for the United States after their travel ban was lifted, despite the serious charge of imminently threatening Egyptian national security that was leveled at them by the investigating judge.

The Egyptian authorities had on Wednesday lifted the ban on 43 NGO employees of different nationalities, including 16 American citizens. Only seven of the 16 accused Americans remained in Cairo, and they were escorted to the airport by US embassy personnel.

The case has caused tension in relations between Egypt and the United States.

The International Republican Institute, one of the non-profits under investigation, welcomed Egypt's decision to lift travel bans imposed on its staff, but said it remained concerned over Egypt's investigation of civil society groups and hopeful that all charges would be dropped, Reuters reported.

The institute said in a statement it remained very concerned about the situation "and the impact it will have on Egypt's ability to move forward with the democratic transition that so many Egyptians have sought."

Meanwhile, MP Mohamed Abdel Alim Dawoud, undersecretary of the People's Assembly, submitted a request for information to Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri and Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hamid Thursday regarding what he called the “crime” of lifting the travel ban and the failure to take firm action in this case.

“The American ambassador talked about the possibility of ending the problem soon, which is interference in the work of the judiciary and a manifestation of US pressure on decision makers in Egypt,” Dawoud said.

A statement that Al-Sayed al-Badawy, president of the Wafd Party, praised the presiding judge, Judge Mohamed Shoukry, for stepping down from the case.

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