Egypt lifts travel ban on British charity worker

Reuters, Tuesday 14 Feb 2012

British charity worker is cleared to leave Egypt after general-prosecutor lifts travel ban

A British charity worker who was barred from leaving Egypt last week over an investigation into non-governmental organisations operating in the country was cleared to return to Britain on Tuesday, sources at the airport said.

The sources did not give details about Diane Diacon's work, but she is listed as director of The Building and Social Housing Foundation, according to the British charity's website. The charity has worked on a housing project in southern Egypt.

The general-prosecutor gave permission for Diacon to leave Egypt after completing an investigation, the airport sources said.

A total of 43 foreigners, mostly Americans, and locals have been banned from leaving Egypt and their cases have been referred to a criminal court in a row that has led Washington to warn that $1.3 billion a year of military aid may be at risk.

One of the judges leading the investigation said the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had violated Egyptian tax laws by not declaring their income from abroad or paying taxes on their workers' pay, and had carried out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.

Some of those on the travel ban work for US-funded NGOs, including the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which have loose links to the US political parties.

One of those banned from travelling is the son of the US transportation secretary.

The travel bans were imposed because some of those wanted for questioning left the country, the judge said.

"This kind of thing is a consequence of the anti-foreigner discourse and is very damaging to Egypt's international reputation and standing," a Western diplomat said of the Diacon case. "There seems little apparent rationale for preventing Mrs Diacon from leaving the country."

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