Saturday, February 25, 2012

Egypt: Trial of 16 Americans, 27 Others Begins in Cairo on 2/26

The trial proceeding of 16 Americans and 27 others is scheduled to begin on Sunday (February 26) at a Cairo courthouse to determine complicity in a politically charged case linked to a government crackdown on nonprofit groups that has generated one of the deepest crises in US-Egyptian relations going back at least three decades.

The case, which involves American employees of four U.S.-based pro-democracy groups, is putting one of Washington's most critical relationships in the Middle East to an incredible test. At risk is the US threat to cut a US$1.5 billion annual aid package to Egypt if the issue is not amicably resolved.

Despite private efforts at all senior levels of the US Government to head off the commencement of this trial, the Obama Administration's effort to persuade the Egyptian leadership to reconsider their actions have proved unsuccessful.

COMMENT: Nor has the US taken preemptive action by formally notifying the Egyptian government that it has suspended any disbursements of appropriated funds BEFORE THE FACT. Worse, Egypt has accused the US of meddling in an internal matter.

Even personal visits to Cairo by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey and Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), have failed to budge the Egyptians from proceeding with the trial. Additionally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had raised the matter twice in person with Egypt's foreign minister to no avail.

Seemingly, the Obama Administration is letting itself be "mousetrapped" by what is increasingly becoming a rogue state, where the Muslim Brotherhood holds considerable control in Parliament and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to act like a world leader in its dealings with Iran, Syria and even Iraq and seems to be sitting on the side-lines.

In Iran and Syria, the US has stood by and failed to support courageous pro-democracy protesters and in Iraq, it permitted itself to be thrown out by the Iraqis at a time when Iraq was not yet ready to protect its people, thus endangering rival factions and potentially the Middle East itself.

There are 43 defendants that will be tried beginning tomorrow: Sixteen Americans, sixteen Egyptians as well as Germans, Palestinians, Serbs and Jordanians. They have been charged with the illegal use of foreign funds to bolster unrest and operating without a license.

Yet, the Egyptian investigation fits into a broader campaign by Egypt's rulers against alleged foreign influence since the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak last year [2011].

Another point that I have recently made is how could the US stand by and not broker amnesty for former President Mubarak, when he had been a loyal ally to the US for decades. Admittedly, he was corrupt and autocratic, but the same terms are easily used to describe many other world leaders. Ironically, his trial is nearing its end as the 43 defendants described above face their own trial.

It is pointless to debate whether the Egyptians have evidence against the 43 defendants, considering that this "trial" can only be characterized as political harassment. If anything, the motive of the Egyptian rulers is to "play to the crowd" that is the New Egypt and generate greater anti-Western sentiments.

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