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Rights groups react to Egyptian crackdown

June 6, 2013 at 12:58 PM

PARIS, June 6 (UPI) -- Restrictions on the activity of civil rights organizations in Egypt represents an assault on basic liberties, a human rights federation said Thursday.

Funds and documents belonging to five non-governmental organizations working in Egypt were seized by authorities this week. More than 40 Egyptian and foreign staff members were given prison sentences for their work with civic organizations.

The International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French initials FIDH, said in a Thursday statement it was "dismayed" by the restrictions imposed on NGOs.

FIDH said it was calling on the European Union in particular to urge Egyptian authorities to end "all forms of harassment or intimidation to which independent civil society organizations are subjected and especially to drop all criminal charges against civil society workers."

The organizations and defendants were accused of accepting foreign funds and operating in the country illegally.

Freedom House, an advocacy group with headquarters in New York and Washington, described the move as part of a campaign of intimidation by Egyptian authorities.

"None of those indicted did anything wrong," Freedom House President David Kramer said in a Tuesday statement. "They were simply working with Egyptians to help them realize their dream of a free Egypt, and instead have been made scapegoats for a government and judiciary who have betrayed the aspirations of the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution."

Freedom House staff members were among those convicted this week.

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