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Egypt court adjourns trial of NGO employees until April

A Cairo Criminal Court judge on Sunday adjourned the trial of 43 non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, including 16 Americans and 27 other foreigners, until April following the first day of the trial. Employees of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House [advocacy websites] are being charged with promoting democracy in the country without proper licenses and using illegally received foreign funding. On the first day of trial, only 14 of the 43 defendants were present, even though it was compulsory that they appear under Egyptian law. None of the defendants from America or Europe was present. In an interview [text] Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] said the US is "working with the highest levels of the existing Egyptian authorities and ... hoping to get this resolved." The delay [Egypt Independent report] may give the countries involved an opportunity to come to a nonjudicial resolution before the trial starts again.

The employees were charged earlier this month [JURIST report] after being investigated by Egyptian officials. Investigation into the American workers caused Clinton to threaten to withhold [CNS report] Egypt's annual $1.3 billion military earlier this month. Weeks later, however, President Barack Obama nevertheless made a proposal to Congress to supply the aid [Al Arabiya report] for fiscal year 2013. Egypt's investigations of NGOs has caused growing strains on US-Egypt relations since January, when the government denied cracking down on NGOs after raiding the NGOs [JURIST reports] in December.

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