Egypt lifts travel ban on US pro-democracy workers

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt lifted a travel ban Wednesday on seven Americans charged with fomenting unrest by working for illegally funded pro-democracy groups, signaling an end to the worst crisis in Egypt-U.S. relations in 30 years.

The clash put $1.5 billion in annual American aid to Egypt at risk and sparked intense behind-the-scenes negotiations between the two countries to find a way out.

Defense lawyer Tharwat Abdel-Shaheed said the seven Americans, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, could only leave the country if they post bail of 2 million Egyptian pounds (about $300,000). They have also signed pledges to attend their next hearing.

“The ban was lifted on humanitarian grounds, but the bail is way too high,” Abdel-Shaheed, who represents some of the American defendants, told The Associated Press.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was encouraged by reports the ban was lifted but added she had no confirmation.

Egyptian officials said the travel ban was lifted by the country’s top prosecutor at the recommendation of the case’s investigating judge. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

It was not immediately clear whether the charges against the Americans would be dropped.

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