LaHood's Son, Others, Barred from Leaving Egypt

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The Egyptian government has banned several Americans and Europeans from leaving the country, raising concern over the country's alleged transition to democracy.

The Americans, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, work for pro-democracy NGOs, headquartered in the U.S.

On Jan. 21, Egyptian authorities prevented Sam LaHood, resident director of the International Republican Institute in Egypt, from boarding a flight to leave the country, Bloomberg reported.

In December, Egyptian police raided IRI and two other U.S. pro-democracy groups, charging all three with breaking local law. Egypt is reportedly deciding whether to put them on trial.

LaHood's arrest came a day after President Obama phoned Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's interim government, to reiterate the importance of allowing NGOs to operate freely in the country.

"In most other countries, if the president of the United States calls, you try to get to yes," Washington-based IRI head Lorne Craner said.

"Here, we're not seeing any movement whatsoever and it continues to get worse," he said. "That's what is especially distressing and disquieting."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr over the weekend.

Nuland said promises by Egyptian authorities to return computers and other materials confiscated during the raid had not yet happened.

"We had these raids on the NGOs," Nuland told reporters. "We had property confiscated. We had staff interrogated, this kind of thing, so we have not yet resolved this situation.

"As we watch this Egyptian process of transition to democracy, we have seen some positive steps and we've seen some issues that are of concern," she said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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