Egyptian authorities barred a British woman from leaving Egypt on Friday because she is on a list of foreigners under investigation over ties to foreign nonprofit groups accused of fomenting unrest in the country, an airport official said.
The government's crackdown on the NGOs has caused one of the most serious rifts between Egypt and its strategic ally, the United States. US officials and legislators have warned it could sever the US$1.5 billion in US aid to Egypt, one of the longest and largest in the world.
The airport official said the woman was ordered off a London-bound plane in Cairo, but was not arrested.
There was no immediate comment from the British Embassy. The woman joins a list of at least 10 foreigners, including six Americans, who have been barred from traveling as part of the criminal investigation.
Egyptian judges have referred 16 Americans, and 27 others, including Europeans and Egyptians, to trial on accusations they illegally used foreign funds to foment unrest in the country.
The country's military rulers have so far stood firm behind the case and military-backed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri has said Egypt would not "kneel" before pressure to cut the aid.
Officials have also used the case and allegations of foreign meddling to accuse the growing protest movement in Egypt of being a pawn in the hands of US, which is allegedly seeking to destabilize the country.
Youth groups and revolutionary movements that led the popular uprising that forced former President Hosni Mubarak to hand over power to a military ruling council last year have grown more assertive in demanding the military step down immediately in favor of a civilian authority.
They have accused the military generals of mismanaging the transition to democracy, and of trying to preserve Mubarak's regime. On Friday, thousands of protesters organized nearly a dozen marches across Cairo, heading to the Defense Ministry.
"We are not tired. A total revolution or none," shouted protesters marching toward the ministry. "Down, down with military rule."
The different marches converging on the well-guarded ministry were a detour from the protesters' usual tactics, taking them away from rallies at Cairo's Tahrir Square that was the epicenter of the uprising. Smaller, more symbolic marches to the ministry have been organized before.
The rallies come on the eve of the anniversary of Mubarak stepping down on 11 February 2011. The protesters have also called for a rolling general strike to begin Saturday to pressure the military rulers to step down.
The generals, who have promised to hand over power by 30 June, and the government have been apprehensive of the strike call.
Religious figures and the powerful Muslim Brotherhood group, which controls nearly 50 percent of the country's newly elected Parliament, have condemned the call, with some saying it further threatened the already dire economic situation.
State media and a Facebook page affiliated with the ruling generals have also accused the US of using local institutions, such as the American University in Cairo, to spread the call for the general strike, which they described as an attempt to weaken Egypt.