Take another victory lap, Bammy.
The criminal trial of 16 American pro-democracy workers opened in Cairo on Sunday as U.S. and Egyptian diplomats attempted to resolve a deepening crisis between longtime allies that have grown increasingly estranged since the uprisings that have swept the Arab world in the last year.
The politically charged case, punctuated by bruising rhetoric on both sides, is a sign of Washington’s ebbing influence in the region and a test of Egypt’s ruling military council’s ability to finesse an end to a drama that could result in the curtailment of $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. Contradictory signals from the Egyptian government and perceived U.S. arrogance have hampered a resolution.
Most of the accused Americans have left Egypt and the seven remaining, including Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy to avoid possible arrest. None of the Americans and activists from other nations were in the defendants’ cage with 14 accused Egyptians in a north Cairo courtroom.
Judge Mahmoud Mohammed Shoukry, who at one point left the bench to escape the noise from a crush of lawyers and journalists, said the 43 defendants are charged with operating nongovernmental organizations without a license and receiving millions of dollars in illegal funding. Much of the criminal case centers on the activities of two American-based groups, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.
That whole “Arab Spring” thing is really working out, huh?