News / Middle East

Egypt Imposes Jail Sentences on Absent Foreign NGO Workers

Friends of Egyptian suspects react as they listen to the judge's verdict at a court room during a case against foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Cairo, June 4, 2013
Friends of Egyptian suspects react as they listen to the judge's verdict at a court room during a case against foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Cairo, June 4, 2013
Edward Yeranian
An Egyptian court has convicted 43 workers for foreign non-profit agencies, including at least 15 Americans, on charges of illegally using funds to stir unrest in the country.  The decision is apparently aimed at restricting operations of foreign non-governmental groups that advocate democracy.

Egyptian Judge Makram Awad says he was sentencing the foreign NGO workers to five years in prison and fining them 1,000 Egyptian pounds. Most of the Americans affected had left the country months ago, so the ruling was made in their absence.

The employees of U.S.-based democracy advocacy NGOs were given sentences for “illegally using foreign funds to foment unrest” in Egypt.

The court also ordered the permanent closures of the Egyptian offices of the non-governmental organizations, which include the U.S.-based Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.

A friend of several Egyptians convicted by the court expressed outrage at the ruling.

He said his two friends who work for Freedom House were just employees, who received their salaries every month, but had nothing to do with any illegal activities.  He said they coordinated all their activities with the Egyptian foreign ministry.

Raafat Othman, an attorney for several of the defendants, contends the prosecution's case was weak and that the sentences could be overturned on appeal.

Othman said the verdict was expected due to the current political climate in Egypt.  But he said the case was weak and that the verdict based on political motivations.  He said the verdict will undoubtedly be appealed.

Said Sadek, who teaches political sociology at the American University in Cairo, notes that Egypt's upper house of parliament is considering a new law governing the operations of foreign NGOs.

Sadek said the law is aimed at foreign civil society groups and not at charitable organizations.

"The government is working on trimming the wings of these organizations by controlling their finances," said Sadek. "If you, for example, take funds from an international organization to monitor, for example, torture.....if they don't like it, maybe they will disapprove this funding. Autocratic regimes are always against independent civil society, especially [human rights] organizations and what they do regarding monitoring the activities of government."

The crackdown began in 2011. Egyptian authorities raided the offices of several U.S.-based pro-democracy groups and NGOs and filed charges against 16 American activists on suspicions of using illegally obtained funds to undermine Egypt's stability.

The U.S. workers were released last year after intense behind-the-scenes political negotiations between U.S. political leaders and Egypt's then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs