Egypt names Americans facing trial, ties strained

Associated Press
An Egyptian man stands in front of riot police blocking the road during clashes with protestors near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. The number of people killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces in the wake of a deadly soccer riot rose to 11 on Saturday, according to a field doctor and a security official, as demonstrators in Cairo kept up their calls for an end to military rule and retribution for those killed in the soccer game violence. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt on Monday released the names of 19 Americans who face trial over foreign funding of activities of their nonprofit groups in Egypt, a case that has soured U.S.-Egypt relations.

One of the 19 is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Sam LaHood and five other Americans are in Egypt while the others have left, according to a statement from the Egyptian prosecutor's office.

Altogether, 43 people face trials over illegally operating in Egypt and receiving funds from abroad without permission from Egyptian authorities for their human rights and pro-democracy groups. Egypt charges that they fund and support anti-government protests. The groups deny that.

Washington has reacted angrily to the case, which started with raids last month on the offices of the groups. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has warned it could jeopardize U.S. aid to Egypt, which amounts to more than $1billion a year.

On Monday the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said the U.S. citizens involved in the dispute have been working to build a more democratic society in Egypt and "have done absolutely nothing wrong."

She told "CBS This Morning" that U.S. officials have been in close touch with the Egyptian government, including "in the last days and hours." She said the situation "has serious consequences for our bilateral relationship."

Egyptian Cabinet minister Mohammed Amr said the government cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary.

"We are doing our best to contain this but ... we cannot actually exercise any influence on the investigating judges," he reporters at a security conference in Munich, Germany Sunday, before the announcement that charges would be filed against the foreign activists.

The Egyptian investigation into the work of the nonprofit groups is closely linked to the political turmoil that has engulfed the nation since the ouster a year ago of President Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. ally who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years.

Protesters demand that the ruling military council speed up transfer of power to civilians saying that they are an extension of the old regime and that they have mismanaged the country's transitional period. The military took power after Mubarak resigned a year ago. It says it will hand over control after a new president is elected in June.

The military rulers tried to deflect criticism by claiming "foreign hands" are behind protests against their rule, frequently depict the protesters as receiving funds from abroad in a plot to destabilize the country.

The downturn in U.S.-Egypt relations comes as Egypt confronts a new wave of violence.

A deadly riot at a soccer stadium in Port Said on Thursday, when 74 people were killed, set off the latest disturbances. Protesters charged that police did nothing to stop the violence, and some say the rulers deliberately caused it to take revenge against soccer fans known as Ultras who joined protests and to show the military must remain in power.

One protester was killed early Monday in Cairo clashes, said Dr. Malek el-Assal at a field hospital, bringing the five-day death toll to 13 in protests around the country.

Starting at dawn, armored vehicles with police swept through streets near the downtown Cairo Interior Ministry, shooting at protesters with birdshot and tear gas, he said.

At midday Monday, volunteers formed human cordons at the entrances of streets leading to the ministry, which the military had already blocked with concrete walls to prevent renewed clashes. The Interior Ministry oversees the police and has been a frequent target of protests.

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