Egypt demands jail for US democracy activists

Prosecutors say NGOs "accused of espionage and going against the law"; case threatens US military aid to Cairo.

By REUTERS
February 26, 2012 14:23
3 minute read.
Egypt flag

Egypt flag 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

CAIRO - The trial of dozens of democracy activists including 16 Americans began on Sunday in a politically charged case which is threatening ties between Cairo and Washington and $1.3 billion in annual US military aid.

Forty-three foreign and Egyptian non-profit workers - including the son of the US transportation secretary - are accused of receiving illegal funds from abroad and carrying out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


In a crowded courtroom on the outskirts of Cairo, lawyers who said they were volunteering in the case against the activists, demanded the defendants be imprisoned and accused them of "espionage".

"These organizations are accused of espionage and going against the law. Most of them are in contact with the CIA. These organizations gathered information and reports on Egypt and sent them to the US State Department," Khaled Suleiman, a lawyer acting against the organizations, said.

Those accused in the case were banned from leaving Egypt pending the trial and some of the US citizens targeted in the probe have taken refuge at the American embassy.

As the session started and a prosecution lawyer began listing funds send from abroad to the non-governmental organizations, 13 defendants stood behind the courtroom's bars, all of them Egyptians.

Several of the accused foreigners were already abroad when the travel ban was enacted. Many of the activists had not been formally summoned to appear before the court.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


Television reporters crowded around the presiding judge, Mahmud Mohamed Shukry, as he arrived in the rowdy chamber and an interior ministry official threatened to expel journalists.

"This will be a procedural session. We will hear the charges and we will request the lifting of the travel ban," said defence lawyer Negad al-Borai.

US and Egypt in talks to resolve issue

A senior US official said on Saturday Washington and Cairo were holding what he described as "intense discussions" to resolve the crisis within days.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in the Moroccan capital after visits to Algeria and Tunisia, has met Egypt's foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr twice in the last three days, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The US pro-democracy groups whose staff have been charged deny they have done anything illegal.

Egypt says the case is a judicial matter and all groups must heed Egyptian law. In the text of the charges the prosecution would present, the groups are accused of establishing without permission branches for their organizations and offering unauthorized political training and workshops to parties.

One of the judges leading the probe has said the non-governmental organizations had violated Egyptian tax laws by not declaring their income from abroad or paying taxes on their workers' pay and had carried out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.

Negad al-Borai, a lawyer representing the accused in Cairo, said the charges referred only to a short period in the groups' activities and could therefore be argued against.

"The charges made involve only the period from March 2011 to December 2011," he told Reuters. "These groups have applied for permits before that period."

Some Egyptian officials have linked the funding of civil society initiatives to a US plot to undermine Egypt's sovereignty - accusations the United States and the civil society workers deny.

Among those accused is Sam LaHood, Egypt director of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the son of the US transportation secretary.

The crisis escalated on Dec. 29 when Egyptian authority swooped the offices of IRI and the National Democratic Institute, confiscating documents and computers and cash on the premises.

The government and the ruling military council say the case was initiated by the judiciary and is out of their hands.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

November 17, 2018
CIA believes Saudi crown prince ordered journalist's killing

By REUTERS