Egypt's foreign ministry rejected on Wednesday statements made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a day earlier over Egypt's investigation into the alleged foreign funding of NGOs in the country.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said Egypt rejected any statements that aim to interfere with the Egyptian judiciary, "especially with the statements being made hours before the court session."
On Tuesday, the UN issued a press release saying that Ban Ki-moon was following closely judicial proceedings in Egypt against a number of civil society organisations and human rights defenders.
"Defendants in the case must be able to benefit from all due process and fair trial standards," the statement said.
The UN leader stressed the "important role that civil society plays in ensuring that states meet developmental, social and civic objectives and obligations."
"[Ban Ki-moon] stresses the need for human rights defenders and civil society in general, as well as the media, to work without undue restrictions," the statement added.
A decision is expected to made today by an Egyptian court on human rights advocates and founders of NGOs Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid, who are currently being investigated for receiving “illegal foreign funding.”
On Tuesday, an administrative court ruled that NGOs have the right to receive foreign funding, a verdict that could impact other ongoing cases where activists are being prosecuted for allegedly receiving "illegal" foreign funds.
Bahgat is an investigative journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personnel Rights (EIPR), and Eid is a lawyer and founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). A gag order has been imposed on media reporting in the case.
Abu Zeid alleged that statements like the one made by the UN head were an attempt to influence and intimidate the Egyptian judiciary. He added that such statements do not fall within the mandate or responsibilities of the UN, and do not conform to its consistent claims of respecting the rule of law and judicial independence.
This is not the first time that Egypt's foreign ministry has criticised "foreign interference" in the NGO case.
Last month, the ministry said statements made by UK Foreign Office Minister for North Africa Tobias Ellwood – where he expressed "deep concerns" over what he described as the growing restriction on civil society in Egypt – were characterised by "inconsistent generalisation and a lack of evidence to supports such allegations."