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Egypt publishes names of 43 to be prosecuted for allegedly violating foreign funding laws

By Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — Egyptian state media Monday published the names of 43 people accused in a politically explosive investigation of pro-democracy groups, saying they are suspected of receiving illegal funding with the aim of destabilizing the country’s national security.

The 19 Americans on the list of those to be prosecuted on charges of violating foreign funding laws included Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and country director for the Washington-based International Republican Institute, and Charles Dunne, the Mideast program director for Freedom House, a research and advocacy organization.

Dunne said in an interview Monday that he had last visited Egypt in October.

“I left the country in October, in their good graces,” said Dunne. “But apparently not now.”

Egyptian officials consider foreign funding of the groups to be meddling in their country’s political system. The nongovernmental groups insist that they aim only to teach Egyptians nuts and bolts technical assistance to help them take part in the democratic process.

The Obama administration has warned that the decision Sunday by judges could lead to the suspension of $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt’s military.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a statement Monday that she was “appalled” by the situation, and that “these frivolous charges must be dropped immediately.”

The list identified as “fugitives” foreign nationals who are to be charged, but are not in the country.

Dunne said he expected to receive formal charges from prosecutors Tuesday. He said Freedom House officials have been told by Egyptian officials that the penalties could include fines and up to five years in jail.

Ahram Online said the group includes 29 foreign nationals and 14 Egyptians suspected of receiving “illegal foreign funding — with the alleged aim of destabilizing Egypt’s national security.”

It quoted Ashraf El-Ashmawy, the investigating magistrate, saying “These organizations prepare research reports that are sent to the U.S.” They “provide training to Egyptian political parties and support certain political figures in parliamentary and presidential elections to serve foreign interests,” the magistrate was quoted as saying.

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