Posted: Wednesday 29th February 2012 at 23:53 pm

Egypt ‘ends’ travel ban in US row

29 February 2012 Last updated at 23:53 GMT

Workers from the National Democratic Institute NGO wait outside as officials raid their office, 29 December 2011Workers from the National Democratic Institute NGO wait as officials raid their office in December

Egypt is to lift a travel ban on seven US democracy activists accused of trying to foment unrest in the country, judicial officials in Cairo have said.

They are among 16 Americans who have been detained – the other nine have already left the country.

Forty-three activists in total face charges such as inciting protests against the nation’s military rulers.

The case has caused a major rift between the two countries and put at risk $1.3bn (£813m) in US aid to Egypt.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday she was not able to confirm reports that the travel ban had been lifted.

Earlier in the day she said she expected the situation to be resolved in the “very near future”.

‘Uneasiness’

It is not clear when the seven Americans could be allowed to leave Egypt, or if charges will be dropped.

Some of the US citizens sought refuge at the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Among those still in the country is the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

A trial opened on Sunday against the accused, although none of the Americans were in court.

Officials told AP news agency that prosecutors lifted the travel ban at the recommendation of the case’s investigating judge.

The three presiding judges stood down from the case on Tuesday, citing “uneasiness”. It has been adjourned until April.

Critics have called the investigation an effort by Egyptian military to silence its detractors, and undermine organisations that have spoken out over the transition to democracy.

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