6/05/2013

Egyptian court convicts 43 NGO employees

BBCNEWS

A court in Cairo has convicted 43 Egyptian and foreign employees of non-governmental (NGO) organisations for working illegally in Egypt.

The court sentenced the defendants - most of them in absentia - to jail terms of up to five years.
It also ordered the closure of offices and the seizure of assets in Egypt belonging to several US NGOs.
The case - which began in 2012 - has strained relations between Cairo and Washington.
US officials had threatened to cut off the roughly $1.5bn (£980m) in aid paid to Egypt every year.
Raids
On Tuesday, the Cairo court sentenced 27 defendants to five years in prison. Another five received two years and 11 were given one-year terms.
Only five defendants, including one American national, were present in court.
Most foreign defendants - nationals of the US, Germany, Serbia and Arab states - were able to leave the country last year after the authorities had lifted a travel ban against them.
They include Sam LaHood, son of the US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He received a five-year prison term.
The defendants say they will appeal against the sentences, according to the AFP news agency.
The court in the Egyptian capital also ordered the closure of a number of NGOs operating in Egypt, including the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Last year - when Egypt was under military rule following the removal of President Hosni Mubarak - police raided the IRI and NDI offices as well as a number of Egyptian NGOs.
The NGOs had been accused of operating without licences and receiving illicit foreign funds - a charge they denied.
Washington has so far made no public comment on the court's decision.
Last week, human rights groups expressed concerns that a draft law backed by Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi would restrict the funding and activities of NGOs in the country.
Egyptian officials rejected the claim as groundless.