Foreign NGO staff leave Egypt after posting bail | News | DW | 01.03.2012
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Foreign NGO staff leave Egypt after posting bail

German, American and other non-governmental organization staff have been allowed to leave Egypt. Germany is demanding that the trial against them be terminated.

Two employees of the Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation were among 15 foreign non-governmental-organization workers facing charges of receiving foreign funds, who were allowed to leave Egypt on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Berlin-based organization said the two Germans and the other non-governmental-organization workers had left Cairo on a plane bound for Larnaca in Cyprus, after an Egyptian court decision to lift a travel ban on them.

Earlier on Thursday the appeals court in Cairo confirmed that the travel ban had been removed on the defendants in question and that each had paid 247,000 euros ($333,000) in bail.

German relief

The chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, Hans-Gert Pöttering expressed relief at the news of their release, but described it as just being a "first important signal” from the Egyptian authorities. Pöttering said in a statement that the next step should be the “termination of this absurd case."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also expressed his relief at the news.

"I am pleased that our intensive efforts behind the scenes in the past days and weeks have born fruit," the foreign minister said. Germany's focus, he said, would continue to be on getting the charges against the workers dropped, so that the foundation could continue its work unhindered.

American reaction

The United States also expressed relief at the release of eight of its citizens who were facing the same charges.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said while Washington was pleased that the American workers had been allowed to leave, it continued to be concerned about Egypt's investigation into non-governmental organizations.

"We will continue to try to work through these issues with the Egyptian government," Nuland told reporters at a State Department press conference.

A total of 43 local and international non-governmental organization staff based in Egypt were put on trial on February 26 on charges of receiving illicit foreign funds. The trial was adjourned until April 26.

The charges followed raids on several of the group's offices last month, in which police confiscated equipment and sealed the doors.

The trials followed raids on the groups' offices last December in which equipment was confiscated.

pfd/ccp (dpa, Reuters, DAPD)