Egypt’s arrest of 19 Americans exposes ‘pro-democracy’ activists overseas


Egypt’s recent crackdown on NGO intelligence and spy network has American workers pretending to be surprised by it all.

Ernesto Londoño and Peter Finn
Washington Post

February 7, 2012

CAIRO — Julie Hughes, a veteran pro-democracy worker, was crushed when she missed out on Egypt’s revolt last year. In a Facebook posting at the time, she said, “It’s like having your next door neighbor throw an incredibly joyous party and you don’t get an invitation.”

So when she got an offer from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to return to the field as Egypt country director, Hughes, 44, didn’t think twice. “Egypt is going to be interesting,” her new boss told her.

Nine months later, Hughes is one of 43 pro-democracy workers, including 19 Americans, who face criminal charges from the authorities in Cairofor operating without proper registration and receiving foreign money. She is banned from leaving Egypt and subject to arrest. Along with Hughes, five of the other Americans are still in the country, according to a list released by Egyptian state media.

The lives of Hughes and other pro-democracy workers have been upended in a drama that not only threatens U.S.-Egyptian relations but highlights the uneasy relationship between American democracy activists and some foreign governments.

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