A court in Cairo has sentenced 43 people to between one and five years in prison for working for unregistered NGOs in Egypt. Twenty-seven defendants, all of whom were tried in absentia, received five-year jail sentences. Eleven received one-year suspended sentences, and five received two-year sentences. The convicted people include 19 Americans, 16 Egyptians, as well as Germans, Serbs, Norwegians, Palestinians and Jordanians.
One of the defendants to receive a two-year sentence was Dar Al-Hilal
publishing CEO Yehia Ghanem, who was a consultant for the
International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), one of the NGOs involved in
the trial. He was also the managing editor of Al-Ahram International.
The court also ordered the closure of five foreign NGOs operating in Egypt and for their funds to be confiscated. These are the US-based Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), and Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS).
The accusations against the NGO staffers included managing unlicensed
branches of the International Republican Institute (IRI) between March
2011 and 29 December 2011, conducting research, political training,
surveys, and workshops without licences, and training political parties
and groups and giving them media support to generate electoral votes.
The heads of NGOs were also charged with illegally receiving foreign
funds. The IRI was accused of receiving $22 million, the National
Democratic Institute (NDI) $18 million, Freedom House $4.4 million, the
International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) $3 million, and
Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) $1.6 million.
The convected NGO-staffers can appeal the verdict. Several of them, inluding most of the Americans, left the country already in March 2012. The conviction took place on the basis of a law, adopted in the Mubarak-era, on the activities of NGO's. A new law has recently been presented to the Shura Council, but that one is hardly an improvement, accordfing to insiders. The question of the NGO's threatens the relations of Egypt with several countries, particularly the US, especially as far as the foreign aid given to Egypt is concerned.