Cairo airport (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egyptian human rights groups have condemned travel bans imposed on local rights activists, several of whom found out about their legal status when attempting to travel.
"Organisations signing this statement condemn recent travel bans on human rights defenders and democracy advocates.... without providing reasons," a statement signed by 18 NGOs read.
The groups included the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Centre for Public Policy Studies, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the New Woman Foundation and the Arab Organisation for Penal Reform.
The NGOs demand "the immediate lifting of these decisions, and the halting of the maltreatment of human rights defenders and abuses against NGOs and those who work in them."
According to the statement, the head of the Egyptian Democratic Institute Hossam El-Din Aly and his deputy Ahmed Ghoneim were not allowed to leave Egypt on their way to international democracy conventions in December.
The groups said it took weeks for Aly and Ghoneim to find out the reasons they had been stopped at the airport – an order by a judge investigating a 2011 foreign funding court case.
Another case mentioned in the statement was that of Esraa Abdel-Fattah, a political activist who used to work for the same institute and who was also stopped at the airport in January on the same grounds as Aly and Ghoneim.
These cases "follow a fierce campaign by the state that reached its peak with the registration deadline given to NGOs in November," read the statement.
The Egyptian government gave a deadline in November for groups doing NGO-type work and registered as civil companies or law firms to adjust their status by registering as non-governmental organisations under the Mubarak-era statute, which many such groups deem restrictive.
Thursday's statement described the law as repressive.
The groups accused the state of attempting to eliminate civil society work and continuing the harassment of its workers.
The statement criticised the state for attacking NGOs ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for spring.
Civil society "exerts efforts to raise the awareness of voters and monitor the electoral process" and supports a "plural and free political atmosphere," the statement concluded.