Travel ban lifted on Americans on trial in Egypt
Seven Americans charged with illegal activities relating to their non-profit groups, including the son of transportation secretary Ray LaHood, have been cleared to leave Egypt.
A chartered plane was waiting at the airport in Cairo for the Americans, who include the son of the secretary of transportation, to carry them out of the country and beyond the reach of the Egyptian authorities. The group had sought refuge in the United States Embassy, where they remained hostages of a prosecution that threatened them with prison, and their departure is expected to cool the sense of crisis.
The United States had threatened to cut off the $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt's military, and the Egyptians had retaliated by warning that they would reconsider the United States-brokered treaty with Israel.
But in order for the defendants to leave the country, they will be required to pay large sums as bail - as high as $300,000 each, according to defense lawyers - and pledge to return for their trial. Lifting the travel ban does not resolve charges against the nonprofit groups or their roughly dozen Egyptian employees, nor does it erase the fear among the many advocacy groups that have come under the same investigation.
At a time when Egyptians are demanding a new independence for their judiciary after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian courts appear instead to have bent to political pressure.
It doesn't resolve the crisis, but it eases the tensions a bit, giving both sides some maneuvering room. The US would like to strike a deal that might include guilty verdicts but no jail time and perhaps expulsion from the country. There are some in the military junta that is ruling the country who would accept that plan, but others want to force a more humiliating resolution to the crisis for the US.
The trial of 16 Americans charged in the case begins later this month.