Democracy,  Egypt

The principled bravery of Robert Becker

He could have left the country with other American NGO workers who had been detained by the Egyptian regime. But Robert Becker chose to stay behind and stand trial with 14 Egyptians on trumped-up charges of working for unlicensed nongovernmental organizations that received illegal foreign funding.

Becker is one of 16 Americans and 27 others facing charges in the case. Six of the Americans left Egypt last week and returned to the U.S. after $330,000 in bail was paid for each and their travel restrictions were lifted. The nine other U.S. nationals had previously left the country.

Becker’s bail also was posted last week, but he chose to stay and face trial. He and the other defendants could receive up to five years in prison each if convicted.

The charges center on a number of groups, including the U.S-backed [National Democratic Institute], the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. Egyptian authorities claimed the defendants threatened Egypt’s sovereignty by stirring unrest while attempting to advance U.S. and Israeli interests.

The nonprofit groups, which were working without licenses after years of applying but never receiving them, have denied meddling in Egypt’s political affairs. Much of their work dealt with democracy and election programs.

Becker works for the National Democratic Institute, which is affiliated with the Democratic party in the US and receives federal funding.

Many Egyptians admire Becker for staying behind. Reuters quoted one of his supporters, who asked not to be named, as saying: “Mr. Becker is a man we all respect. I was one of the party members he trained. He taught us how to campaign during elections and what democratic governance means. He is a good man and respects Egyptians.”

The trial was postponed until April 10.

How many of us in a similar position would do the same?

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