Human Rights Watch has condemned a court ban on Egypt's leading pro-democracy movement as a violation of freedom of association and assembly.
A court on Monday banned the April 6 Youth Movement — one of the groups that engineered the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The ruling stemmed from a private lawsuit brought by a lawyer who accused the group of defaming the country and colluding with foreign parties.
“Banning political dissent won’t make it go away,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “A judge’s gavel can’t turn back the clock to before 2011.”
April 6 had opposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and supported his ouster last summer, but shifted its stance against the interim authorities to protest their crackdown on dissent. The group has frequently accused the interim leaders of quashing freedoms and giving the police a free hand.
Local media has cast April 6 as a treasonous movement with foreign agendas.
"The court’s ruling marked a further escalation in the government’s campaign against all peaceful opposition," the New York-based group said on Wednesday.
In December, leading members of April 6 - Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and longtime activist Ahmed Douma - were sentenced to three years in prison on charges including protesting illegally. Their appeals were rejected earlier this month.
“Years of vilification did not silence the youth who risked their lives for a more democratic Egypt, and this ruling won’t either,” Stork said.
“Rather than enforcing this ban, authorities should be vigorously defending the rights enshrined in Egypt’s constitution.”