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Egypt names 43 targeted in democracy groups inquiry

Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and 18 other Americans are among those to be prosecuted on charges of violating foreign funding laws.

February 07, 2012|By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from 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 last visited Egypt in October.

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

Egyptian officials consider foreign funding of the groups as interference in their country's political system. The nongovernmental groups insist that they aim only to provide Egyptians with 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.

The news outlet Ahram Online said the group consists of 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 Ashmawy, the investigating magistrate, as 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.

paul.richter@latimes.com

Times staff writers Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.

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