CNN's Jill Dougherty Talks to IRI's Sam LaHood About Being Barred From Leaving Egypt

January 27, 2012

LaHood's son barred from leaving Egypt
CNN's The Situation Room

JILL DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Sam Lahood tells CNN he tried to get out of Egypt last Saturday for a short trip to Doha to see a friend but was turned back by Egyptian authorities. We reached him by phone at his apartment in Cairo.

(on-camera) Sam, do you feel safe where you are at this point?

VOICE OF SAM LAHOOD, INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE: You know, I feel safe physically. You know, obviously, the fact that the investigative judge chose to prevent some of us from traveling is something that our lawyer tells us indicates that, you know, this investigation has taken on more serious nature. And the next step from here would either be arrest or go to trial.

DOUGHERTY: The 37-year-old is Egypt director for the influential U.S. non-governmental organization, the International Republican Institute. He's one of five IRI staff on the no-fly list along with staff from other U.S. NGOs.

His offices, along with those of other NGOs, were raided last month by Egyptian security forces. His father, transportation secretary, Ray Lahood, tells CNN he's in constant contact with his son.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, there are a lot of people working on that, so we'll see how it works out.

DOUGHERTY: Sen. John McCain, chairman of IRI, blasted Egypt for what he called an outrageous move. "I fear for the safety of all the employees at these NGOs, Americans, Egyptians and others," he said, "especially those who've been barred from leaving the country. Sam Lahood's boss says this is the first time in 30 years IRI has been through anything like this.

LORNE CRANER, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE: The accusations as best we know them at this moment are you are not registered, and we have been trying to get registered for 5 1/2 years. And number two, you do not have the kind of bank account you would have if you were registered. And again, we've been trying to get that status for 5 1/2 years.

DOUGHERTY: President Obama, meanwhile, raised the issue of NGOs with Egypt's military ruler. Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has talked with the foreign minister, but it's a delicate balance. Stick up for the Americans without interfering in Egypt's judicial system.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We are urging the government of Egypt to lift these restrictions immediately and allow folks to come home as soon as possible, and we are hopeful that this issue will be resolved in nearest days.

DOUGHERTY (on-camera): There's a lot of anger building here in Washington about this, because after all, Egypt is the largest single recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the entire world. Pulling the plug on that aid could damage Egypt when it already is fragile economically and politically in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.