Saad El Katatni, Head of the Freedom and Justice Party (Photo: reuters)
Freedom and Justice Party leader Saad El-Katatni on Wednesday discussed Egypt's draft NGO law with the US and UK ambassadors at the party's headquarters in Cairo.
The Shura Council on Sunday gave preliminary approval to a draft law regulating non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Egypt.
The draft law, which was pushed through the council's human development committee in one hour, makes the social affairs ministry responsible for licensing NGOs.
The draft law strictly prohibits registered NGOs from obtaining foreign funding. "This includes obtaining funding from foreigners or Egyptians living abroad," says the draft law's explanatory memorandum. It also forces registered NGOs to obtain official permission before transferring money abroad.
The draft law also prohibits NGO board members from forming armed militias or making a profit from the organisation's activities.
Human development committee chairman Abdel-Azim Mahmoud, a leading member of the FJP, said the law calls for a 'coordination committee' to be set up within the framework of the social affairs ministry which will be solely responsible for monitoring foreign NGOs.
El-Katatni said a general forum would be open for political parties, forces and experts to discuss the draft law.
He also expressed his desire for complete transparency regarding the sources of NGO funding and what they spend it on.
"The FJP wants NGOs to operate away from government interference since this the nature of NGOs," El-Katatni added.
In January 2013, a Cairo criminal court adjourned proceedings in a case against foreign-funded NGOs until 4 July.
Since February 2012, 43 foreign (mainly US) and Egyptian NGO workers have been facing charges of receiving US funding without the appropriate authorisation while working in Egypt.
Law 84 of 2002 says all NGOs must be registered with the state, which has the right to monitor their activity and funding, and to dissolve them. Administrative mistakes are punishable in criminal courts.
On 29 December 2012, public prosecutors, backed by police and military personnel, raided and closed the Cairo offices of at least five NGOs. Local staff described it as an unprecedented attack.
The raids followed allegations by the government that several NGOs, as well as a handful of recently established political parties, had received illicit and unregistered funding from abroad.