NGO workers acquitted in case that strained Cairo-Washington ties

The Cairo court’s decision comes as the Egyptian government looks to amend the country’s NGO law.
Thursday 20/12/2018
A 2013 file picture shows friends and relatives of Egyptian suspects reacting to the judge’s verdict at a court room during a case against NGOs in Cairo. (Reuters)
Strain remover. A 2013 file picture shows friends and relatives of Egyptian suspects reacting to the judge’s verdict at a court room during a case against NGOs in Cairo. (Reuters)

LONDON – An Egyptian court acquitted 40 NGO workers, including German and US citizens, of charges of illegally receiving funding. The acquittal ends a case that strained ties between Cairo and Washington.

The verdict December 20 ended a 7-year legal battle that rattled civil society groups in Egypt. The case began just months after a 2011 uprising ended the rule of long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

A lower court in 2013 found 43 NGO workers guilty of operating without official licences and illegally receiving foreign funds and ordered the NGOs to close.

The groups included pro-democracy and human rights organisations affiliated with the US-based International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court, threw out the verdict in April and ordered a retrial.

All foreign defendants in the case were able to leave Egypt in 2012 but they were convicted in absentia. Three defendants who were not acquitted were sentenced in absentia and did not seek a retrial, an Egyptian judicial source told Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

The Cairo court’s decision comes as the Egyptian government looks to amend the country’s NGO law. Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli authorised a parliamentary committee to revise the NGO law in November,

Egypt’s 89-article NGO law, enacted in 2017, has been criticised by domestic and international civil society organisations.