The trial of U.S.-financed democracy activists in Egypt began Monday in Cairo, but was quickly recessed for nearly two months amid intense talks between American and Egyptian officials about the case. Sixteen Americans are among the 43 people charged with running unlicensed non-governmental organizations backed by foreign financing.
The delay in the case is seen as a sign the talks may be making progress. To maintain U.S. aid to Egypt, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must report to Congress by the end of April that the new government is moving toward democracy. That date coincides with the trial's scheduled resumption.
Politico's Josh Gerstein reports that there's another "point of tension in the already fraught relationship between Washington and Cairo." That's the U.S. indictment of Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook. Marzook recently relocated from Syria to Cairo as Syria's bloody uprising drags on.
While the prosecution of the democracy activists commands current attention, Gerstein notes that the U.S. considers Hamas to be a terrorist group and does not communicate with it. Support for it has been against the law in the United States since 1995. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that Hamas support for Syrian opposition forces is one reason the United States is reluctant to offer weapons to anti-Assad forces.
"Hamas is now supporting the opposition," Clinton told CBS on Sunday. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?"
This, though, raises another question. Leaders in both groups acknowledge that Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Brotherhood candidates swept into parliamentary majorities in recent Egyptian elections. If Hamas support in Syria is a cause for withholding support for rebels, how can the U.S. justify aid to a government dominated by Hamas' parent organization which now is sheltering a Hamas leader?