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Egypt's foreign-funded NGO trial postponed to July

Court proceedings in foreign NGO trial postponed to 4 July; Defence lawyers maintain case is politically motivated, insist government had been aware of foreign funding at time

Ahram Online, Thursday 10 Jan 2013

A Cairo criminal court postponed proceedings in the ongoing case of foreign-funded NGOs to 4 July following a Thursday court session.

Since February of last year, 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers have faced charges of receiving US funding without the appropriate authorisation while working in Egypt.

According to Egypt's Law 84 of 2002, all NGOs must be registered with the Egyptian government, which has the right to monitor all NGO activity and funding and – if deemed necessary – to dissolve them.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website, one of the accused, Sherif Mansour, has been released from custody but must attend all upcoming hearings.

In statements made during Thursday's session, lawyers for several of the defendants asserted that the case was politically motivated. 

Defence lawyers added that the ongoing dispute was rooted in the longstanding controversy over foreign aid to Egypt, stressing that the civil society organisations for which the accused individuals had worked had been operating in Egypt for six years. Charges against the defendants, lawyers said, had nothing to do with the organisations' operations.

The defence team also presented US and Egyptian government documents detailing the funds and expenditures of those NGOs involved in the case. The documents confirmed that the Egyptian government had initially welcomed some $33 million in aid in the form of civil society activity by the NGOs in question.  

In testimony given in July, Egyptian Ambassador Marwan Zaki Badr, an official at Egypt's Ministry of International Cooperation, which had handled the NGO case, said that US civil society funding to Egypt had increased substantially in 2004 and again in 2011, when it reached a total of $45 million.

According to defence lawyers, the Egyptian government, and specifically the Ministry of International Cooperation, had been aware of the increases at the time.

Following an October court hearing, Osama Shaltout, secretary-general of Egypt's Ghad Al-Thawra Party, confirmed that the accused organisations had been arranging political awareness campaigns and conducting workshops on how to manage electoral campaigns.

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