The trial of 43 pro-democracy workers including up to 16 American citizens, charged with operating without licenses and receiving illicit funding, has been set for 26 February.

Amid increasingly strained diplomatic relations with Washington, Cairo has ignored US warnings that failure to drop the issue could result in the loss of more than $1.5 billion in US aid.

Egypt claims the pro-democracy groups have connections with Egyptian activist groups and were involved in instigating political unrest in the country.