The court of appeal postponed on Thursday its review of the appeals submitted by 16 defendants in foreign funding case to April 5.
On Thursday, the court of appeals was scheduled to hear the first appeal hearings of 16 defendants out of 43 Egyptian and foreign workers who were sentenced in June 2013 with prison sentences between one and five years in the case No. 173, known as the foreign funding case.
The appeal was introduced by several human rights workers standing trial for the case of August 2017 at the State Council.
In this regard, the prosecution appeal provided the court of appeal an advisory opinion not to consider the appeal submitted by five defendants who were sentenced to two years in prison as they have not submitted themselves to the implementation of the judgment.
The case was internationally criticized, for example former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry expressed his concern over the case against NGOs in March 2016.
The case sentenced 43 defendants including 14 Egyptians and 29 American, European and Arab defendants who are charged of taking $60 million foreign funds of human rights organizations and NGOs working in Egypt without license to use it in banned activities and in violation of the states’ policy.
The case opened in 2011 when the cabinet ordered the Minister of Justice to set up a fact-finding committee to look into foreign funding received by the civil society groups in Egypt. The committee finished its report in September 2011, which included the lists of independent human rights organizations in Egypt as well as international NGOs.
However, no defendants were referred to the case at that stage.
There are 37 organizations listed in the fact-finding committee report, including: the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Arab Organization for Penal Reform, the Land Center for Human Rights, Appropriate Communications Technologies and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation & Enhancement.
The interrogations of NGO staff began in January 2012 as the defendants were formally charged and referred to the trail in February, 2012.
On June 4, 2013, Cairo Criminal Court handed five-year-sentences in absentia to 32 defendants, including 17 U.S. citizens and one-year-suspended sentences to 11 Egyptian defendants. The court ordered the closure of the organizations in questions, including the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, International Center for Journalists and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Three years later in 2016, the Egyptian prosecution added more NGOs including the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and United Group. Three staff members of Nazra for Feminist Studies appeared before the investigations.
Also the renowned rights activist Hossam Bahgat is being investigated. He is a journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personnel Rights (EIPR), as well as Gamal Eid, a lawyer and founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) as they are accused of receiving illegal funds for their NGOs.
They both have been banned from traveling and their assets were frozen along with the assets of Eid’s daughter and wife. The Cairo Criminal Court approved a freeze on their assets in September 2016.