Defendants to be retried over 'unlicensed NGOs' funds' Thursday



Thu, 20 Dec 2018 - 09:26 GMT


Thu, 20 Dec 2018 - 09:26 GMT

Defendants and police at the Cairo Criminal Court – Reuters

Defendants and police at the Cairo Criminal Court – Reuters

CAIRO – 20 December 2018: A Cairo criminal court will retry 16 defendants over charges of receiving $60 million in foreign funds for human rights organizations and NGOs working in Egypt without licenses.

The defendants in the case dubbed in media as the “Foreign Funding” case are accused of receiving the money to use it for “restricted activities and in violation of the state's policy."

Egypt's Court of Cassation overturned last April prison sentences against 16 defendants in a case dubbed in the media as the “Foreign Funding” case.

A total of 16 defendants, out of 43 Egyptian and foreign workers, were sentenced in June 2013 to prison sentences between one and five years. A number of human rights activists have appealed against the sentences at the Court of Cassation.

As per the investigations, the sentenced defendants, including 14 Egyptians and 29 Americans, Europeans and Arabs.

The case opened in 2011 when the cabinet ordered the Minister of Justice to set up a fact-finding committee to look into foreign funding received by the civil society groups in Egypt. The committee finished its report in September 2011, which included the lists of independent human rights organizations in Egypt as well as international NGOs.

The interrogations of NGO staff began in January 2012 as the defendants were formally charged and referred to trial in February 2012.

On June 4, 2013, Cairo Criminal Court handed five-year-sentences in absentia to 32 defendants, including 17 U.S. citizens and one-year-suspended sentences to 11 Egyptian defendants. The court ordered the closure of the organizations in questions, including: the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, International Center for Journalists and Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Three years later in 2016, the Egyptian prosecution added more NGOs including: the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and United Group. Three staff members of Nazra for Feminist Studies appeared before the investigations.

In addition, the renowned rights activist Hossam Bahgat is being investigated. He is a journalist and the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), as well as Gamal Eid, a lawyer and founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) as they are accused of receiving illegal funds for their NGOs.

They both have been banned from traveling and their assets were frozen along with the assets of Eid’s daughter and wife. The Cairo Criminal Court approved a freeze on their assets in September 2016.

NGOs 2017 law

In June 2017, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi signed law no. 70/2017 on NGOs and their operation in Egypt, as an annulment to the previous law no. 84/2002, after being passed by two-thirds of the Parliament in Nov. 2016.

The government had been working for years on a new law regulating NGOs in a bid to preserve the country’s security by monitoring NGOs, their activities and the funding they receive.

Provisions obliging NGOs to inform authorities before collecting and spending donations will bog them down and stifle their work, NGO workers say.

Under the new law, donations exceeding LE 10,000 must be pre-approved, while failure to inform authorities could result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to LE 1 million.

The law also gives the government power over deciding who can establish an NGO and for what purpose. It obliges groups to stick to the “state’s development plan”.

The law also bans domestic and foreign groups from engaging in political activities or anything that harms national security, public order, public morals or public health.

In November 2018, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi agreed to form an official committee to discuss a law issued in 2017 governing the operation of foreign NGOs in Egypt, as a prelude to possible amending.

During his participation at the second edition of the World Youth Forum, the Egyptian leader said the law might be amended after several studies and discussions took place regarding its articles.



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