Egyptian human rights defenders vow to continue work after asset freeze

A request to freeze the assets of some of Egypt’s most prominent rights organizations and rights defenders was accepted in court on Saturday, in a long-running investigation into receipt of foreign funds with the aim of endangering national security.

The North Cairo Criminal Court’s decision affects Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) founder and journalist Hossam Bahgat, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) head Gamal Eid, the Egyptian Center for Right to Education and its head Abdel Hafiz Tayel, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and its head Bahey Eddin Hassan, and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and its manager Mostafa al-Hassan.

The court rejected the prosecution’s request to freeze the assets of the human rights defenders’ family members.

The legal status of ANHRI and EIPR are unknown after the asset freeze of their founders, Eid told Mada Masr, explaining that it remains to be seen whether the prosecution will consider these organizations, partly owned by people affected by the asset freeze, as within their assets. The decision explicitly names three organizations and their heads, then Bahgat and Eid without mentioning EIPR and ANHRI.

The asset freeze comes in the context of case 173, in which 17 rights defenders from 12 organizations face charges of receiving foreign funding to harm national security and founding organizations of an international nature without permits. Known as the 173 foreign funding case, it was opened in 2011 and reopened this year

Twelve human rights defenders, including Eid and Bahgat, are facing ongoing travel bans in relation to the investigations.

Following the verdict, EIPR asserted in a statement that it would continue to defend rights and called on political forces to stand in solidarity with the Egyptian human rights movement.

CIHRS released a statement that considered the verdict “the latest episode in the abuse of and vengeance against rights defenders in Egypt, which aims at eradicating the rights movement altogether.” The center said the campaign started a month into the term of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2014, when organizations started facing closures.

The center’s head, Bahey Eddin Hassan, is quoted in the statement asserting that human rights organizations will continue to fulfill their moral commitment towards the people, regardless of the price.

Amnesty International also criticized the verdict on Saturday in a statement, calling it “a shameless ploy to silence human rights activism.”

Last week the Cabinet-approved a new NGO law that was criticized by rights defenders, partly for placing Egypt’s security apparatuses at the forefront of monitoring NGO’s work.


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