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Fargo native Staci Haag among Americans detained in Egypt

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sens.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., are appealing to Egyptian authorities to drop charges against a Fargo native accused of using illegal foreign funds to support unrest in the country.

News releases from Conrad and Hoeven sent Friday afternoon say Staci Haag, a Fargo-born director of a Washington nonprofit, is among the 19 Americans barred from leaving Egypt after the country's ruling party cracked down on pro-democracy groups last month.

A total of 43 people face trials for illegally operating in Egypt by receiving funds from abroad from human rights and pro-democracy groups without permission from Egyptian authorities. Egypt alleges that the funds have helped support anti-government protests, which the groups deny.

The North Dakota senators said Haag is a resident director for the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit group that works to strengthen democratic institutions, according to the organization's website.

A Monday news release from NDI states that Egyptian authorities have concluded their investigation, and the organization expects charges to be brought against 15 of its employees.

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"NDI denies the accusations and will vigorously defend the accused personnel," the release said.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Haag graduated from Michigan State University in 1994 and has worked with various political and nonprofit organizations since then.

During last year's Arab Spring, Haag was interviewed by Al Jazeera and National Public Radio about Bahrain and Iran.

Both Hoeven and Conrad have sent letters to Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian ambassador to U.S., expressing their concern over the charges against Haag.

Hoeven is a member of the Senate Appropriate Committee's Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which approves foreign aid for Egypt. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has warned the charges against Americans could jeopardize that aid.

Reports indicate that the Americans have not been imprisoned and are just not allowed to leave the country. Trial dates have not yet been set. Efforts to reach Haag for comment were unsuccessful.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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