Egyptian crackdown political, NGO says

June 13, 2013 at 2:27 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- Legal action taken by the Egyptian government against civil organizations was politically motivated, the Middle East director for Freedom House testified.

Last week, a criminal court in Cairo found guilty 43 members from non-governmental organizations of accepting foreign funds and operating in the country illegally. More than half of them were sentenced in absentia to prison terms.

Charles Dunne, director of Middle East programs at Freedom House, testified before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on civil freedoms in Egypt.

"We had no doubt from the beginning that the raids and the trials were politically motivated," he said.

Dunne identified himself as defendant No. 30 in the criminal case last week. He said he was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to close Freedom House offices in Egypt.

He described the Egyptian crackdown as "soft imperialism," noting the verdict included a nationalist tone with "a strong dose of anti-Israeli sentiment thrown in."

Committee member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in her opening statement Wednesday she was introducing legislation setting conditions on U.S. economic assistance to Egypt in response to the crackdown.

"We must send a strong, unified signal if we are to see Egypt realize the goals of the revolution," she said.

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