The Egyptian government has asked the U.S. Justice Department to locate and inform American NGO workers that their criminal trials begin in Cairo next week.
"The embassy has transmitted a request for judicial assistance to the U.S. government to locate and identify the defendants and notify them of the scheduled date and place of the court hearing on April 10 in Cairo," a senior Egyptian official told The Cable. "This request is based on an Egypt-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived congressional restrictions on the $1.5 billion of annual aid to Egypt last month, following the Egyptian government's decision to allow more than a dozenforeign NGO workers to leave Egypt. The NGO workers had been indicted by Egyptian courts for operating in Egypt without a license and were barred from leaving Egypt for months following raids on several NGO offices in Cairo last December.
The U.S. government paid $5 million in "bail" money to secure the March 1 release of American NGO workers, including Sam LaHood, the Cairo director of the International Republican Institute and the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. But several of the American NGO workers who were indicted by the Egyptian government were not in Egypt at the time. Those are the NGO workers the Egyptian government is trying to locate now.
The Justice Department and the State Department are both working with the Egyptian government on the issue, but both agencies declined to explain the details of those negotiations.
"We have no comment, other than to state that the United States is making known in every relevant forum, and before every relevant agency, its objection to these politically motivated trials in Egypt," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Cable.