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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid