At least 40 international civil society workers, 19 of them U.S. citizens, are now facing criminal trials in connection with charges lodged against them by the Egyptian government. The employees of nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, are accused of "banned activities and receiving foreign funds illegally," according to a report from The Miami Herald, and are now prohibited from leaving the country. The case is highly controversial and politicized, with international critics decrying it as a "witch hunt" against pro-democracy activists, who are perceived by Arab conservatives as threatening the status quo with their "Western values." The decision comes despite mounting threats from President Obama and Congress, who have pledged to withdraw $1.55 billion in foreign aid to Egypt, $1.3 billion of which was designated to grow the Egyptian military, The New York Times reports. The ruling follows a Dec. 29 raid (pictured), in which 17 NGO offices were swarmed by Egyptian authorities, including the U.S.-based nonprofit agencies International Republican Institute, Freedom House and the National Democratic Institute. Among the detainees is Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Hood, who works as head of programming for the International Republican Institute.
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