Egyptian judge Ali Mokhtar issued a ruling on Saturday lifting asset freezes and travel bans on the staff of 20 NGOs involved in case No.173 for the year 2011, commonly known as "foreign funding of civil society case”.
Mokhtar is the latest investigating judge – succeeding a number of previous judges – delegated by the Court of Appeals to investigate the report by a fact-finding committee formed in 2011 to look into the foreign funding of civil society groups.
Mokhtar said in a statement on Saturday that he “started the investigation to complement the efforts of the previous investigating judges about 10 months ago, and the legal position of a number of the organisations under investigation was determined. So, we had to settle it without delay until the completion of investigations into the remaining facts.”
“The investigations into 20 of the organisations, entities, and societies in the case have been concluded,” Mokhtar said, without specifying the total number of NGOs included in the case.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), there are 37 organisations named in the fact-finding committee report. On 9 October 2015, Egypt’s daily newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabea published a leaked copy of a request by the investigating judge at the time to the tax authorities enquiring about the tax compliance of 25 Egyptian organisations.
Mokhtar added in the statement that due to the different legal positions and the different legal nature and evidences, “we decided to issue an order not to pursue a criminal case for six of the organisations.”
Mokhtar also issued an order not to move forward with a criminal case for 14 of the NGOs due to insufficient evidence.
The judge consequently decided to lift the travel bans and asset freezes on the staff of the 20 orgaisations.
“We believe that civil society is part of the engine of sustainable development and is indispensable… in supporting solidarity and social peace, which do not come about without the active and effective role of civil society, as long as this role is played within the correct legal framework and in accordance with the legal controls set by the legislator,” Mokhtar said.
Earlier on Thursday, Egypt’s prosecution ordered the release of three EIPR employees on bail after their arrest last month: Head Director of EIPR Gasser Abdel-Razek, Executive Director of EIPR Mohamed Bashir, and the head of the group’s criminal justice department, Karim Ennarah.
The prosecution released the three after legal documents were provided by EIPR showing that legal procedures have been taken to change the status of EIPR from a regular company to a non-profit organisation in accordance with the NGO law.