Egypt Lifts Travel Ban: NGO Workers Headed Home

The military is bringing home American non-governmental organization workers after a tense standoff with Egypt.

The 17 workers are part of a larger group being held after Egypt imposed a travel ban, effectively keeping them in the country to face trial. NGO workers have been threatened and harassed in recent months, with offices being raided by Egyptian forces in December.

American leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had called for the workers to be freed and released without fear of persecution or trial. Clinton was part of an entourage working with Egyptian leaders in order to ensure the Americans' freedom.

According to reports, the NGO workers faced charges of "inciting protests against the nation's military rulers, obtaining international funds illegally, and failing to register their organizations with the government" and were required to post $300,000 bail and sign pledges guaranteeing their return for trial.

"The ban was lifted on humanitarian grounds, but the bail is way too high," Abdel-Shaheed told the Associated Press. Shaheed represents some of the American workers previously held captive.

While it is unknown what exactly prompted the travel ban's lift, one factor certainly could be the threat of cutting funding to Egypt. The United States sends approximately $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt annually.

Just yesterday the judges overseeing the trial of NGO workers resigned, citing "embarrassment" and personal issues. The trial has tentatively been rescheduled for April, but it remains to be seen whether Egypt will continue with the trial or drop all charges.

Part of the tense relationship between the U.S. and Egypt, aside from the travel band and NGO raids, includes chaos in the post-Mubarak era. After the dictator was overthrown, military rulers took over and have begun cracking down on those who they fear pose a threat or spread conflicting ideas.

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