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article imageForeign democracy activists on trial in Egypt allowed to fly home

By Kev Hedges     Mar 3, 2012 in World
Cairo - Seventeen foreign NGO workers and democracy activists, including Americans, held in Egypt have had a travel ban on them lifted. They have flown to Cyprus by military aircraft and expect to return to their home countries soon.
The foreign NGO workers were at the centre of a diplomatic row between Egypt and the US but a US military plane took them out of the country on Thursday and most of the activists could be home by the weekend. They had been accused by the Egyptian authorities receiving illegal foreign funding and stirring up unrest.
The case which has been on-going since December last year when computers and documents were seized by Egyptian authorities during raids. The political storm was whipped up when John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Joe Lieberman said in a BBC report, opponents of the US within the Egyptian government were "exacerbating tensions and inflaming public opinion in order to advance a narrow political agenda."
Egypt's Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri said defiantly in early February, he would not be persuaded by the potential loss of US aid to end an ongoing investigation into foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Ganzouri was adamant he would not back down and would be "applying the law."
Washington gives Egypt $1.3bn (£819m) in military aid and about $250m in economic aid every year. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that failure to resolve the dispute might lead to the loss of the aid entirely.
On the flight to Cyprus there were said to be nine Americans, three Serbians, two Germans, a Norwegian and a Palestinian, according to Cairo airport officials. It is believed each of the defendants had paid bail of $332,000 (£207,000) before the travel ban was removed.
Government officials in the US told the New York Times a breakthrough in the row came after the ruling parliamentary political party, Muslim Brotherhood, expressed support for the NGOs, saying they were responsible for exposing many of the atrocities of the previous government led by President Hosni Mubarak, who resigned last year after an uprising.
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