US government paid NGO workers' bail

Ahram Online, Saturday 3 Mar 2012

State Department spokeswoman confirms US govt paid $330,000 bail of NGO workers, won't pressure accused to return to Egypt for trial

US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (Photo: AP)

The US government paid the $330,000 bail of foreign workers in Egypt's ongoing NGO case, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed on Friday.

According to Nuland, a group of US citizens and other foreign nationals departed Egypt on a US military plane on Thursday.

Whether the accused would return to Egypt to face trial would be left up to the accused after consulting their lawyers, she added.

However, she hoped things would not go that far because the accusations were baseless and the US was working with the Egyptian government to close the case.

Sixteen of the 43 people facing charges in the NGO case are US citizens.

The foreign NGO workers left the country after a travel ban against them was lifted on Wednesday. They are accused of working in Egypt and raising US funds without appropriate government authorisation.

The presiding judge in the case recused himself on Wednesday without disclosing the reason. This led many to believe that judicial independence had been violated by the authorities.

Several judges have accused Judge Abdel Ezz Ibrahim, the head of the Court of Appeal, of putting pressure on the presiding judge to step down after which the travel ban was lifted.

Some judges who are unhappy with perceived breaches of judicial independence are currently collecting the signatures required to hold a general assembly of the Judges' Club to look at Judge Ibrahim's conduct.

In an interview on state TV's Channel One on Friday, Ibrahim admitted to asking Judge Mohamed Shokri to recuse himself from the case. He claimed there was a conflict of interest because Shokri's son works in a legal consultancy office that deals with the US embassy.

Shokri refuted Ibrahim's statement, and stated that he would have recused himself from the start of the case if he had detected any conflicts of interest. He added that he would present an official report to explain why the three commissioned judges overseeing the NGO case resigned.                                                                                                                  

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