Son Of Secretary Of Transportation Barred From Leaving Egypt
The son of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is among a group of Americans who are being barred from leaving Egypt:
CAIRO — The Egyptian authorities have blocked the son of a United States cabinet member and at least five other American employees of two Washington-backed nongovernmental organizations from leaving Egypt in an apparent escalation of a politically charged criminal investigation into foreign-financed groups promoting democracy.
Officials of the group, the International Republican Institute, said the Egyptian authorities had blocked its Cairo chief, Sam LaHood, from boarding a flight at the airport several days ago. His father is Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary and a former Republican congressman from Illinois. Officials of the group said Egyptian legal authorities told them four others, including two other Americans, had been barred from travel outside the country as well.
Officials of its sister organization, the National Democratic Institute, also said on Thursday that six of its employees had been banned from traveling, including three American citizens. It was unclear how many other Americans working at similar groups may also be banned from travel.
The episode comes at a tense moment in relations between Washington and Cairo. A year after a council of generals took power after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, Washington has begun publicly urging them to turn over authority to civilians as soon as possible. And legislators have begun agitating to put new conditions about the transition to democracy on the more than $1.3 billion a year in military aid that the United States sends Egypt, although the Obama administration has shown no inclination to allow such a move.
Egypt’s ruling military council, in turn, has been suggesting for months that the United States may have been financing nonprofit human-rights groups and democracy-building groups with an agenda to destabilize Egypt, part of a growing drumbeat of anti-Americanism that has emanated from the military-led government. The generals have often sought to blame outbursts of violence in the streets on such foreign interference.
The military council has also kept in place Mubarak-era laws requiring any foreign financing of Egyptian nonprofit organizations to pass through the government and go only to licensed groups. The government rarely issues licenses to genuinely independent civil society groups, ensuring that almost all of them remain in a kind of legal twilight and vulnerable to prosecution — including the American-backed groups.
Since the ouster of Mr. Mubarak a year ago, the American government has begun providing some financing more directly to Egyptian nonprofit groups without going through the Egyptian government, acting in the expectation that Egypt’s political transition meant a more open policy toward civil society groups.
But several months ago, the military-led government began a formal legal investigation into foreign financing of Egyptian nonprofits, and it culminated recently in raids by armed police squads who confiscated files, computers and money from four such groups, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. The institutes have close ties to the Congressional leadership and work to promote the practice of electoral democracy in countries around the world.
Lorne W. Craner, president of the International Republican Institute, expressed concern over the investigation and the Egyptian government’s refusal to abide by promises to end the case and return documents, computers and cash seized from his organizations and the others.
“Here we are all these weeks later and all these assurances later, and things are getting worse,” Mr. Craner said in Washington.
So it would seem. I suppose that it is fortunate in some sense that the son of a prominent American official is among the group in question. Otherwise, who knows what would happen to them.