The Court of Cassation is set rule on whether to accept the appeals against prison sentences handed to international civil society workers in the NGO foreign funding case on April 5.
The first appeal hearing in the case was held on Thursday for the defendants, who are facing prison up to five years in prison. While a number of appeals have been filed in the case, it is unclear which were heard during the session.
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 43 civil society workers, both foreign and Egyptian, in June 2013 on charges of operating unlicensed non-governmental organizations and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security. The foreign defendants were sentenced in absentia and the 11 Egyptian defendants who were in the country received suspended prison sentences.
Lawyer Negad al-Borai, who represents four of the defendants appealing their verdicts in the case, told Mada Masr that if the court accepts the appeal, the sentences would be repealed and all 43 civil society workers would be granted a retrial, regardless of whether or not they filed an appeal.
Lawyer Hafez Abu Seada, who represents a number of the defendants, said during Thursday’s hearing that, while the criminal court considered the organizations’ possession of premises, running of projects and hiring of employees without a license evidence of criminal activity, these were all prerequisites to receiving a license, according to the laws governing Egyptian NGOs.
Adel Fayez, the lawyer representing the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation, said during Thursday’s hearing that the organization was founded based on a cultural collaboration agreement, which was signed between the two countries in 1959 and approved by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Egyptian authorities stormed the offices of the civil society organizations involved in the case in December 2011, subsequently forming a commission to investigate allegations that these NGOs were receiving foreign funding to foment unrest in the country.
In addition to issuing prison sentences to employees at these NGOs, the 2013 verdict also ordered the dismantling of the Cairo offices of four American organizations and one German organization: the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
In March 2012, 17 foreigners sentenced in the case left the country after being released on LE2 million bail each.