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CHICAGO (CBS) – The U.S. government should make it clear to Egypt that it will cut off financial aid to the troubled nation if it does not allow Americans to leave the country, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Monday.
Egypt has referred 19 Americans and 24 other employees of nonprofit groups to trial before a criminal court on accusations they illegally used foreign funds to promote unrest in the country. The U.S. citizens include Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Peoria.
The younger LaHood heads the Egypt office of the Illinois Republican Institute. He was not allowed to leave the country and is currently at the U.S. Embassy.
“It is an outrage that a country that receives more foreign aid than any other country in the world is arresting representatives of our government and threatening to throw them in jail for doing something that is very open, very public, and not inconsistent with their future,” Durbin, a Democrat, said at an appearance in Chicago Monday.
Sam LaHood was representing the Republican Party. Democrats also send representatives abroad to talk about the formation of democracy.
“These institutions have been there for a number of years. They’re all over the country promoting democracy, and the individuals have done nothing wrong,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
U.S. officials have warned that America’s $1.5 billion in foreign aid will be jeopardized, if LaHood and the other Americans are not allowed to leave. Egypt, which ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year, continues to be controlled by the military over the objection of civilian protests.
“Detaining Americans like Sam LaHood for no reason whatsoever is unacceptable,” Durbin said. “We’ve got to make it clear to the Egyptians that if they pursue this further it will be at the expense of our relationship with the country.”