Travel Ban For 7 Americans in Egypt Lifted

Egyptian authorities have announced the lifting of a travel ban that had prevented seven American nonprofit workers from leaving the country. The seven are among 43 workers charged with operating illegally in Egypt following a raid of their offices and the seizure of computers, files and other documents in December; one of the Americans, Sam LaHood, is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The charges against the Americans are not being withdrawn but they will be allowed to pay bail of two million Egyptian pounds (about $330,000) and leave the country.

The removal of the travel ban is a step to resolving a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Egypt. In the balance was $1.3 billion of aid that the U.S. gives the Egyptian military; reports that the funds could be withheld had led to Egypt threatening to review the the Camp David peace treaty with Israel.

Politically Charged Trial of Nonprofit Workers

The†trial of the 43 workers began on Sunday and was adjourned by Egyptian judges until April 26. Then on Tuesday, the Egyptian judges assigned to the trial recused themselves; a more senior judge had requested, behind the scenes, that they reconsider the ban. On Wednesday, Egyptian state media reported that the judges had written a letter “requesting their recusal on the grounds that the suggestion about the travel ban had compromised their position.”

A total of 19 Americans have all been charged with illegally using foreign funds to incite unrest and operating without a license. 16 Egyptians as well as Serbs, Lebanese, Germans, a Norwegian, a Jordanian and a Palestinian, all face the same charges, which could carry a five-year prison term. The Americans are employees of three nonprofits, one of which is a journalism organization, the International Center for Journalism, and two of which seek to promote democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which Sam LaHood is the director of. Two of the other foreign workers will also be allowed to travel outside Egypt, but the fate of the Egyptian defendants remains unclear.

Clinton: “We donít really have an Egyptian government to have a conversation with”

Activists have said that the raids on the nonprofits’ offices and the trials of their workers represent attempts by Egypt’s ruling military government, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), to silence critics. In the year since Hosni Mubarak was deposed, the SCAF has repeatedly sought to blame foreigners for outbreaks of violent in Egypt including a soccer riot in the city of Port Said that left 74 dead.

In what the New York Times calls a “face-saving way out of the crisis” for Egypt, U.S. officials had said for some days that a diplomatic solution was in the works. But the very suggestion that American-funded groups could have been trying to interfere with the Egyptian revolution created a “powerful anti-American backlash” so that Egypt’s authorities “were unwilling to risk the publicís wrath by appearing to bow before American pressure.”

Noting that she hoped that the situation would be “resolved shortly,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added that

ďOnce we make progress on the N.G.O. issues, then we can have a broader discussion both with the Congress and with the Egyptian government. Of course, one of our problems is we donít really have an Egyptian government to have a conversation with. And I keep reminding myself of that because it is an uncertain situation for all the different players.Ē

Previous Care2 Coverage

Trial of Americans and NGO Workers Begins in Cairo

Egypt Presidential Hopeful Attacked in Carjacking

Trial of Mubarak Closes, Trial of US Citizens on Sunday

Photo of Tahrir Square, Cairo, by sierragoddess


Adam Gill
Adam Gill6 years ago

Barack obama just handed them a brief-case complete of cash now the globe knows to take People in america into legal care and they can also get a brief-case complete of cash !

Times Square Hotel

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

The SCAF is desperate to deflect public pressure, and the various political parties jockeying for electoral position have their own axes to grind. Bottom line is Egypt needed to demonstrate independence from the U.S. and has a right to demand non-interference, however specious the charges. We recently kicked out Russian diplomats for being spies, even though their actual effectiveness as 'spies' was practically nil - it was an issue of demonstrable sovereignty. Countries which have profound reasons for being allies can engage in diplomatic pushback without permanent damage.

The U.S. has had a strategic relationship with Egypt dating back to 1956 and this shouldn't have endangered it. Much of our food aid goes to Egypt, too so it's not a question of threats or military quid pro quo alone, but of very important mutual obligations. Also, the U.S. has had good relations with the Egyptian people since the 1870s and hopefully those will continue no matter what the new government is. Egypt is the key to the entire region.

Nancy R.
Nancy R6 years ago


These NGOs had in fact been operating for years without proper registration because of Byzantine registration procedures, but with tacit acknowledgement by Egyptian Government officials. Since 1) the "charge" against them is basically a misdemeanor, and 2) the employees were never formally arrested, posting this ridiculous amount of bail was a form of political blackmail.
It's obvious that the Egyptian [non-existent] Government created this "scandal" to support their ludicrous accusations that "foreigners" were inciting unrest in Egypt, and to distract the public from ongoing calls for the Military Council to step down.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

On the surface the bail money looks like blackmail by the Egyptian government which is led by the Egyptian military. Since the $1.3 billion from America to Egypt is for military aid, I think we should stop it indefinitely especially since the Egyptian military has use weapon against the protestors. We should never stop talking but perhaps it is time to put a stop to the $1.3 billion blackmail money and that is what it is; we are paying blackmail for the peace agreement with Israel. If Israel wants to pay Egypt for a peace agreement let them but I doubt that they would.

Joan Mcallister
6 years ago

Well I guess it is ransom, but here in the west we don't let prisoners out without bail so what is the difference. I am glad these young people are free, but I feel for the Egyptian prisoners. I don't think they will be so lucky, they don't have half of the western world shouting for their release. I hope these young people have learned their lesson, and I do hope that these fines are not being paid by the American Government (ie the citizens tax dollars), and that the indivuals and or the NGO agencies are paying these.

Penny C.
penny C6 years ago


pam w.
pam w6 years ago

It was always about power...the power of the "new" government to use Americans as bargaining chips. So they'll pay the "fine" and get OUT of there alive!


Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

They should blow town, all 43 of them, and further they should refuse to pay a dime to Egypt. They should sabotage their work as they leave as well, destroying any and all information and data the Egyptian rebels could try to use so the whole case collapses and depletes the enemy coffers. We should then blockade Egypt and let Israel take Sinai back until Egypt gets a government again.

Barbara B.
Past Member 6 years ago

Are you kidding me? Nobody thinks it's a good thing they are being released? Experiencing life in an Egyptian prison is a pretty high price for being many young idealists can be, we all know. Ransom, bail...$300,000 who cares? Want to worry about money, worry about the national debt. $300,000. is pocket change.

Marianna B M.