Egypt Sets Trial Date For Accused Foreign NGO Workers

The trial of 43 people accused in a case involving foreign funding will take place in a criminal court on February 26, Egyptian state news agency MENA said Saturday.

Egypt Sets Trial Date For Accused Foreign NGO Workers

Cairo (CNN) -- The trial of 43 people accused in a case involving foreign funding will take place in a criminal court on February 26, Egyptian state news agency MENA said Saturday.

Egyptian authorities have announced that 43 non-Egyptians working for civil-society organizations face prosecution.

They include 16 Americans, among them Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, according to the State Department. Egypt had put the number of Americans at 19.

Khalid Abu Bakr, a civil rights lawyer in Cairo, said the 43 suspects would have to be present in court, inside the iron cage that holds defendants in Egyptian criminal trials.

"The defense lawyers will request to postpone the hearing until the witnesses give their testimonies and more details are presented," the lawyer told CNN.

He said the court had allowed the American counsel from the embassy to attend the trial. "Suspects will not be detained but those who do not attend will be issued an arrest warrant," Abu Bakr added.

Egyptian officials have blamed continuing unrest in their country on foreign interference they attribute, in part, to the organizations.

In December, authorities carried out 17 raids on the offices of 10 organizations, including the U.S.-based Freedom House, National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.

A spokesman with the general prosecutor's office said the raids were part of an investigation into allegations that the groups had received illegal foreign financing and were operating without a proper license.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it had received a 24-page document from Egyptian authorities that lays out the charges against the staff of U.S. and international democracy-building groups.

Briefing reporters Friday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that its legal team had held a number of meetings since then.

"We continue to work very hard on these issues. So we need to let that work go forward and hope we can solve this in earliest days," she said.

Nuland had said Tuesday that no speedy resolution of the case was expected.

"We are continuing to work as hard as we can with the Egyptian government to work our way through this, and we continue to insist that our people have done nothing wrong and that they ought to be allowed to come home," she said then.

Seven Americans, including LaHood, who is the director of Egypt operations for the International Republican Institute, have been ordered not to leave the country.

A "handful" of American employees of the organizations have taken refuge in the U.S. Embassy, Nuland said.