Egypt PM defends his government in NGO case

Ahram Online , Tuesday 6 Mar 2012

Prime Minister El-Ganzouri says his government played no part in decision to lift travel ban on indicted foreign NGO workers

Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri (Photo: Reuters)

Prime Minister Kamel El-Ganzouri defended his government against accusations that it lifted a travel ban on foreign NGO workers facing trial in a press conference on Tuesday. He asserted that the decision was the responsibility of the judiciary.

On 6 February, a group of 13 foreign NGO workers, including US citizens, left Egypt on a US plane. This came after an unnamed Egyptian judge made the rush decision to lift a travel ban placed on them after they were accused of working in Egypt and raising US funds without appropriate government authorisation.

The prime minister said at the press conference, held at the Cabinet offices in downtown Cairo, that the former cabinet led by his predecessor Essam Sharaf had already formed a fact finding committee regarding unlicensed NGOs operating in Egypt and that its report had discovered several unlicensed NGOs in the country receiving unapproved foreign funding. El-Ganzouri said that the report had been presented to magistrates on 3 October 2011 who then referred the issue to the court.

The prime minister affirmed the independence of the judiciary saying that there had been no interference to life the travel ban. He insisted that this did not mean that the government was evading responsibility but simply affirming that no executive official can legally interfere in the work of the judiciary.

In the press conference, El-Ganzouri revealed that some of the NGOs affected by the case have submitted registration requests to the social affairs ministry several weeks ago and they are yet to be registered.

Following the lifting of the travel ban on the foreign NGO workers facing trial and their departure aboard a US plane, many political powers criticised El-Ganzouri’s Cabinet amid demands that Parliament withdraw confidence from the El-Ganzouri Cabinet.

One of the journalists at the press conference asked the prime minister why Egypt knelt down before the United States while El-Ganzouri had previously said in a speech at the People’s Assembly (the lower house of parliament)  that Egypt would not be subservient to any state. In response, El-Ganzouri said that he had been referring to countries that withheld their investments from Egypt and blocked the country’s exports in order to weaken Egypt economically. What happened in the NGO case, El-Ganzouri asserted, does not mean that Egypt has knelt in front of the US or any other country.

“No one at my age or with my background could accept for Egypt to kneel before anyone or to make his country kneel before any other," El-Ganzouri said.

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