Egypt: Crackdown on human rights defenders continues amid ongoing “foreign funding” investigation

Responding to the news that the investigative judge in Case 173 of 2011, also known as the “foreign funding” case, in recent weeks has questioned at least five directors of NGOs over their human rights work, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellali said:

“For years, the Egyptian authorities have been relentlessly pursuing their outrageous assault on Egypt’s embattled human rights movement. Instead of responding to calls to close the decade-long Case 173 and lift arbitrary travel bans and asset freezes against human rights defenders, the authorities are continuing with their politically-motivated criminal investigations.

“It is high time the Egyptian authorities halted the misuse of the justice system to harass human rights defenders for their legitimate work and instead take steps to address the escalating human rights crisis, starting by releasing the thousands being detained arbitrarily solely for exercising their human rights or on the basis of grossly unfair proceedings.

“The international community must apply pressure on the Egyptian authorities to once and for all close Case 173, lift unjustified travel bans and asset freezes, release detained human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally, and uphold the right to freedom of association.”

Since 15 July, the investigative judge in Case 173 has interrogated at least five human rights defenders over the work of their organizations, funding and taxes, including Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information; founder and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat; Mozn Hassan, head of Nazra for Feminist Studies; Azza Soliman, director of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance; and human rights lawyer Negad al-Borai.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned over the use of investigations by the notorious National Security Agency (NSA), accusing human rights defenders and their organizations of inciting the public against state institutions, and playing a major role in the 25 January uprising and attempts to destroy the state. In its investigation files, the NSA included printed versions of reports and statements on the human rights situation in Egypt issued by the organizations as evidence of their intent to undermine the state.  


Since 2014, investigative judges have been conducting a criminal investigation into the work and the sources of foreign funding of local NGOs and have issued asset freezes against seven organizations and 10 human rights defenders in a case that has become known as Case 173. Egyptian authorities have banned at least 31 human rights defenders and NGO staff from travel abroad for five years. Courts have rejected several appeals by human rights defenders against the restrictive measures against them.

In December 2018, a court acquitted 43 foreign and Egyptian civil society workers in the retrial of the first phase of the “foreign funding” case, dating back to 2011, in relation to the work of international organizations in Egypt, after a court had earlier sentenced them to between one and five years in prison in June 2013, but criminal investigations into Egyptian NGOs continue to date.

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