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Egypt's NGO trial adjourned for 26 April in first session

Controversial trial of 43 Egyptian and foreign rights workers proceeds in Cairo Sunday, judge schedules first hearing for 26 April

Ahram online, Sunday 26 Feb 2012
State television snapshot from the opening court session of NGO workers accused of operating illegally in Egypt (Photo: Ahram)
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Views: 2372

The judge presiding over the trial of US and national rights organisations accused of receiving illegitimate funds set 26 April for the first hearing session in the case that has precipitated in an unprecedented confrontation between Cairo and Washington.

The trial involves 43 Egyptian and foreign, mostly US, rights workers accused of operating illegally and carrying out political activities outside the realm of legitimate NGO work.

The trial proceedings aired live on state television amid heavy media presence inside the courtroom.

The court session adjourned after being suspended "till order is restored" due to brawl between civil claimants and the judge.

Only 13 Egyptian and one German defendants appeared at the hearing. None of the US citizens among the accused were present at the opening court session, reportedly because none of them had received official summons from the court.

Prosecution read out charges to the court, which include receiving funds through illegal channels, and operating as unregistered foreign agencies "in violation of the sovereignty of the Egyptian State."

Throughout the session there was difficulty maintaining court decorum as the civil claimants would not refrain from addressing the judge despite his order to close the floor.

All present defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges, and were released from the court docks without bail pending the case.

Upon the case's adjournment, rights lawyers Hafez Abou Seida told State Television reporters that the circumstances of the trial do not necessitate allowing civil claimants as plaintiffs in the case.

Abou Seida also said that the defendants' representatives should begin submitting evidence of innocence by the upcoming hearing on 26 April.

The prosecution of local and US Non-Governmental Organisations has received much international condemnation ever since the Egyptian government began investigating the groups in early 2012 for allegedly conspiring against the Egyptian State.

The main US organisations involved in the trial are the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.

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