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Egypt moves to defuse crisis over NGO trials

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Among those charged were employees of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House. Though all three groups are described as "nongovernment organizations" they nevertheless have close ties to the government, receiving much of their funding form the National Endowment for Democracy. IRI and NDI are packed with former Hill staffers from both sides of the aisle, making them friends and colleagues with senior US legislators.

Among the seven Americans banned from leaving Egypt is (or was) Sam LaHood, son of the former Congressmen and current Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Sixteen American in all have been charged, with none in the box on the first day of the trial on Sunday. Nine left the country weeks ago. The remaining seven have been holed up at the US Embassy in Cairo, among them Mr. LaHood. The trial proceedings ended quickly on Sunday, with the next date set for the end of April. Three judges on the panel quickly resigned over unexplained "discomfort" with the proceedings.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, senior generals, and the White House directly have all leaned heavily on Egypt's Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) to drop the prosecution for weeks. At a Senate hearing yesterday, Ms. Clinton said "we've had a lot of very tough conversations (with Egypt) and I think we're ... moving toward a resolution." She dismissed the charges against the NGOs, which include claims that they were working to divide Egypt into four parts based on tourist maps in some of their offices (depicting Egypt's traditionally recognized four major regions) as without merit.

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