Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

FASHION

Jean-Marc Loubier, bags and shoes.

Read more

ENCORE!

Hip-hop musician Beat Assailant on mixing the sounds of the city

Read more

  • French journalist tells of release from captivity in Syria

    Read more

  • South Korea ferry captain defends decision to delay evacuation

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • In pictures: Good Friday celebrated across the globe

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Ukraine: ‘One bloody incident could scupper Geneva deal’

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • World honours Garcia Marquez’s magical literary legacy

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • Algeria's ailing Bouteflika clinches fourth term amid fraud claims

    Read more

  • Top Hollande adviser resigns over conflict of interest accusation

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

Africa

Cairo court jails 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-06-04

An Egyptian court sentenced 43 NGO workers from the United States, Europe, Egypt and other Arab countries to prison on Monday for working illegally, in a move that US Secretary of State John Kerry criticised as a violation of democracy.

An Egyptian court gave jail terms to 43 Americans, Europeans, Egyptians and other Arabs on Tuesday in a case against democracy promotion groups that plunged U.S.-Egyptian ties into their worst crisis in decades.

Judge Makram Awad gave five-year sentences in absentia to at least 15 U.S. citizens who left Egypt last year. He sentenced an American who stayed behind to two years in prison and gave the same sentence to a German woman.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry harshly criticized the decision, calling it “incompatible with the transition to democracy” and a violation of the goverment’s commitment to support civil society as it emerges from years of authoritarian rule by close U.S. ally former President Hosni Mubarak.

Beginning in late 2011, Egypt’s crackdown on organisations which included U.S.-based groups linked to America’s two main political parties caused outrage in Washington, which supplies Cairo with $1.3 billion in military aid each year.

The court ordered the closure of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in the case, including the U.S.-based International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House.

Both NDI and IRI plan to challenge the verdict.

In Washington, the State Department issued a tough statement in Kerry’s name but did not hint at any consequences - such as a cut in U.S. assistance to Egypt - as a result of the verdict.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the guilty verdicts and sentences ... handed down by an Egyptian court today against 43 NGO representatives in what was a politically-motivated trial,” he said.

“The decision to close these organizations’ offices and seize their assets contradicts the government of Egypt’s commitments to support the role of civil society as a fundamental actor in a democracy,” he added.

‘Politically motivated’

IRI said in an emailed statement that the ruling “was a politically-motivated effort to squash Egypt’s growing civil society, orchestrated through the courts, in part by Mubarak-era hold overs.”

The NDI said separately: “The Institute will do whatever it can to clear the names of its innocent employees.”

The Egyptian investigation focused on charges that the groups were operating without necessary approvals and had received funds from abroad illegally. Eleven Egyptians who faced lesser charges were handed one-year suspended sentences.

The Americans sentenced in absentia include the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

At one point Egypt placed travel bans on the suspects, including U.S. citizens who took refuge in the U.S. embassy. They were allowed to leave the country on bail of $330,000 each, money that ultimately came from the U.S. government.

Egypt was run at the time by a military council that assumed power from deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Although the case is a legacy of that era, analysts say it further darkens prospects for an open society after the Islamist-led administration drew up a new NGO law seen as a threat to democracy.

The American who stayed behind is Robert Becker, a former NDI employee. The German sentenced to two years is an employee of the Berlin-based Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

“We are outraged and very concerned about the court’s harsh decisions against the employees of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Cairo and the order to close the office,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

'A chilling effect' on civil society


The government said the NGOs were operating illegally in Egypt and complained that after the anti-Mubarak revolt, the U.S. government had diverted $150 million from its Egypt aid budget to these NGOs, breaking bilateral agreements.

Civil rights campaigners in Egypt saw it as part of a concerted campaign against NGOs waged by remnants of the Mubarak administration to crush the nascent democracy.

“The verdict is obviously going to have a chilling effect on the climate for civil society in Egypt, but that’s already been happening for some time,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre, a think-tank based in the Gulf.

The judge handed five-year sentences in absentia to other defendants identified as citizens of Norway, Serbia, Germany and Arab states and one whose nationality was not given.

Despite the furore over the case, the United States released its annual military aid for Egypt in March, 2012, saying U.S. national security required continued military assistance.

The U.S.-based groups were training Egyptians in advocacy, voter education and election monitoring.

The Muslim Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak, has come under fire for proposing new regulations that would severely restrict independent groups. Seeking to ease the concerns, President Mohamed Mursi last week submitted a new draft law to parliament.

But Western and Egyptian critics say the draft falls short.

The EU, a major donor to Cairo, said on June 2 it would unnecessarily constrain the work of NGOs in Egypt, while Washington said the bill imposed significant government controls on the activities and funding of civic groups.

(REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-06-04

  • EGYPT

    Trial of 43 NGO workers adjourned until late April

    Read more

  • EGYPT

    Egyptian plans for NGO workers to face criminal trial angers US

    Read more

  • EGYPT

    Egypt bans travel for Western NGO staff

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)