(ABCNEWS.GO) — Ignoring a stern U.S. threat, Egypt on Sunday referred 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, to trial before a criminal court for allegedly using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest.
The decision marked a sharp escalation of the dispute between Cairo and Washington over Egypt’s crackdown on U.S.-funded groups promoting democracy and human rights. The two countries have been close allies for more than three decades, but the campaign against the organizations has angered Washington, and jeopardized the $1.5 billion in aid Egypt is set to receive from the U.S. this year.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Egypt’s foreign minister that failure to resolve the dispute may lead to the loss of American aid. The Egyptian minister, Mohammed Amr, responded Sunday by saying the government cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary.