Many of the Americans, most of whom fled the country last year, were sentenced in absentia to five years in prison on accusations of agitating unrest. The only American to appear in the Cairo courtroom -- Robert Becker -- was reportedly handed a two-year jail term. It was not immediately known if he was released pending an appeal.
The case escalated into a political crisis between Washington and Cairo during the tense months following the 2011
International pro-democracy workers have long been viewed with suspicion in Egypt as spies or pesky infiltrators. Most of the Americans sentenced Tuesday belonged to Freedom House, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. The nongovernmental organizations had been working on educational programs ahead of Egypt's elections when their offices were raided in late 2011.
The Americans, including Sam
Judge Makram Awad on Tuesday also ordered the closing of the U.S.-based NGOs and other civil society groups. The decision comes amid increasing criticism by human rights groups against a proposed law by the Morsi government to tighten restrictions on nongovernmental organizations.
“This draft law dashes all hopes that independent groups could operate freely and independently after the revolution,”
The trial against the Americans began in 2012 when the Egyptian military ruled the country after the fall of Mubarak. The case, which tapped into growing anti-American sentiment, was regarded by many government critics as a move by Egypt to deflect attention from months of economic and political turmoil.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last year, Becker, who worked for the National Democratic Institute, said he decided to remain in Cairo as a show of solidarity with his Egyptian codefendants.
"Call it moral grounds or stubbornness," said Becker. "I never contemplated leaving this country if [criminal] charges were hanging over the Egyptian staff working for me. I wasn't interested in hiding behind the color of my passport."