Egypt drops NGO activists' trial
Cairo - The Egyptian trial against activists working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over alleged illegal funding has been abandoned, state television reported on Wednesday.
The proposed trial had caused a rift between Egypt and Western powers backing some of the NGOs, such as the US and Germany.
The presiding judge, Mohammed Shukri, made a formal request to renounce the case, without citing a reason, according to the TV report.
His decision was made after Egyptian authorities reportedly asked him to drop a travel ban imposed on the 43 activists, including 19 Americans and two Germans, involved in the case, said local media citing unnamed sources.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that her country was moving toward a resolution "very soon" with Egypt over the trial that has strained Cairo-Washington ties.
"We've had a lot of very tough conversations and I think we are moving toward a resolution," she told a Senate committee hearing.
On Sunday, the court had already adjourned the trial until April 26, after defence lawyers asked for more time.
The US defendants include Sam LaHood, the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who runs the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute.
The US has threatened to withhold $1.3bn in annual military aid to its key Arab ally because of the case.
In December, Egyptian prosecutors and police raided the offices of 17 NGOs across the country, detaining employees and seizing computer files.
Egyptian magistrates accused the groups of meddling in politics and of operating without licences.
Pro-democracy advocates say the crackdown was designed to smear civil society groups for exposing alleged abuses by Egypt's military-led government.