File Photo: A view of the High Court of Justice in Cairo, Egypt. REUTERS
The four NGOs are Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies (ICDS), Development and Institutionalisation Support Center (DISC), Al-Salam Centre for Human Development, and Nazra for Feminist Studies.
The judge also lifted the travel bans and asset freezes that had been imposed on the staff of the four NGOs, according to a judicial statement,
The ruling was issued based “on a lack of complete certainty that the accusations were accurate,” the statement explained.
The controversial case dates back to the January 2011 Revolution that toppled late President Hosni Mubarak and involves dozens of defendants and entities.
Mokhtar is the latest in a series of investigating judges who have been delegated by the Cairo Court of Appeals to investigate the report with a fact-finding committee formed in 2011 to examine the foreign funding of NGOs.
The charges against 75 NGOs have been dropped so far over the course of four judicial rulings issued over the past two years.
In September, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced that 2022 will be the ‘Year of Civil Society’, as the country launched a new National Strategy for Human Rights.
El-Sisi stressed that the Egyptian state is committed to respecting and protecting personal freedoms, political participation, freedom of expression, and the right to form NGOs.
He also called on the civil society sector to cooperate with the state’s institutions to “spread awareness on human rights and to contribute to achieving the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
In 2020, Egypt ratified the bylaws of a new NGO law to regulate the work of tens of thousands of NGOs in Egypt. The previous version of the law was criticized for imposing steep restrictions on the work of these organisations in the country.
Judge Mokhtar called upon all NGOs in Egypt to settle their legal status as soon as possible in line with the new law.
Failure to legalise their status one year after the issuance of the law’s executive regulation carries a fine of up to EGP 1 million, the judge said.
The executive regulation for the amended law was issued by the Egyptian prime minister in January 2021.
Judge Mokhtar stressed that NGOs have an active role in achieving sustainable development in countries and can act as a major partner for countries to confront various challenges.