The son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and at least nine others have been barred from leaving Egypt.
Earlier this week, Sam LaHood and other American employees of the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, both non-governmental organizations (NGOs), were stopped from boarding a flight in Cairo, and now Egyptian authorities are not letting them leave the country.
I asked [the immigration officer] why I was denied, she said she didn't know. I asked how to fix it, and she said she didn't know, the 36-year-old LaHood told The Associated Press about his ordeal.
It's a dark signal for groups who are interested in doing this kind of work.
Egypt said that LaHood was on a “no-fly list.” Recently, the country's interim government has been investigating international NGOs, part of an ongoing distrust of foreign elements in Egypt. In the year since Egypt's revolution, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as well as new right-wing political parties, have blamed unrest on the United States and other foreign powers.
Last month, 17 NGOs including the IRI and the NDI, which were in Egypt to monitor the country's recent parliamentary elections, were raided by Egyptian security forces, who took files, computers and cash with them when they left.
LaHood has also been charged with managing an unregistered NGO and receiving funds from an unregistered NGO, and could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
“I’m very gratified by all the work that’s going on by the administration and our ambassador in Egypt, and I appreciate the work they’re doing on that,” LaHood told Politico, his first remarks since the incident.
“I’ve said everything I’m going to say about that.”
Politico also noted the LaHood and other IRI employees were given back their passports.
What we have heard is that they are amongst those the [Egyptian] government, the judges, who have been charged with prosecuting the case against IRI, have decided should not be allowed to leave the country, a State Department official told Politico.
We are disappointed that these restrictions were imposed, and we are working with the government of Egypt to lift them and allow these Americans to come home as quickly as possible. We hope to have this issue resolved within the next couple of days. Our embassy in Cairo continues to monitor this matter closely.