The German government expressed its concern about the “repression” of human rights organisations on Tuesday following recently reopened investigations into the NGOs’ foreign funding case against NGOs which brought a number of Egypt’s most renowned human rights defenders to prosecution.
“We are following the latest travel bans, bank account freezes, and investigations against human rights activists and organisations in Egypt with great concern,” a statement from the German Foreign Office read.
The German statement stressed that recent moves by the Egyptian authorities violate both the international human rights standards and the Egyptian constitution.
“Respect for human rights and a free civil society are prerequisites for sustainable stability,” the statement added.
The foreign funding case dates back to December 2011, when prosecutors, backed by the police, stormed the offices of 17 local and international NGOs, including the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House, as part of a probe into the NGOs’ allegedly illegal foreign funding.
Forty-three NGO workers were put on trial, including 32 foreigners, and were convicted of unlicensed work and receiving illegal foreign funds. Twenty-seven defendants, all foreigners, were sentenced to five years imprisonment in absentia, while another five foreigners received two-year sentences in attendance, and 11 Egyptians received a one-year suspended sentence and a EGP 1,000 fine.
The reasons behind reopening the case have yet to be announced. Last Wednesday saw the first action in the case for months, as investigating judges announced that workers and accountants of a number of NGOs that were mentioned in the original case would be interrogated.
A number of top human rights defenders, including Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Hossam Bahgat, investigative journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Mozn Hassan, founder and executive director of Nazra for Feminist Studies are set to stand before a panel of investigation judges over charges related to the case in the next few days.
Investigating Judge Hesham Abdel Meguid on Monday evening issued a gag order on investigations and procedures of the case.
The German government called on the Egyptian government to create conditions “in which human rights groups can do their work unhindered—work that is important for the country.”