The trial of non-governmental organisation workers, who are accused of receiving illegal foreign funding,was postponed for the fifth time on Wednesday to September 9, further exacerbating tensions between the government and civil society organisations.
Only one of the witnesses, Ambassador Marwan Badr Zaky, was able to give a testimony, after which the hearing was abruptly adjourned. This angered the two other witnesses present, who were not able to give their testimony.
A minister in Ganzouri’s caretaker Cabinet, Faiza Abu Al-Naga, was supposed to give testimony as a witness but had been excused by the court, according to the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Hafsa Halawa, one of the defendants from the National Democratic Institute (NDI)-an American non-profit that supports the strengthening of thedemocratic process and one of the NGOs targeted by the Egyptian military-sent a message through her Twitter account from the courtroom saying, “I have no idea nor explanation as to why case was adjourned until September 9 after only one witness gave evidence.”
While there are over 40 defendants from Egypt and other countries in this case, only 15 of them showed up to the trial. Among them was American national Robert Becker, also from NDI. The accused could face up to 5 years in prison.
NegadAl-Borai, an Egyptian lawyer and human rights trainer who is working on the defence for the case,sent a message out through his Twitter account from inside the courtroom saying “the more I attend this case, the more I feel like the biggest fool in the country.This can’t go on; the age of foolishness has to end.”
Nasser Amin, Director of the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary said that the crackdown on NGOs was“retaliation for the role of NGOs in the revolution and before the revolution.”
His centre was among the NGOs targeted by the government raid.
“They raided our centre but they did not find anything in it, we started working again the next day”, he explained.
Last December, more than 40 people were arrested, in a government-crackdown on NGOs for receiving illegal foreign funding and inciting unrest, in what was seen by many human rights and civil society organisations as the government’s attempt to limit freedoms. The NGOs were violently raided as computers and files were seized.
The NGOs targeted included pro-democracy and human rights organisations.
Most of the NGOs were Egyptian, but three were American: the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House.
Also among the raided NGOs was the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a social development foundation based in Germany.
In what seems to be a systematic and determined government effort to harass NGOs, in April, 8 US-based NGOs, including the Carter Center, were denied licenses to operate in Egypt, according to McClatchy Newspapers.