CAIRO, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- An Egyptian judge ordered the financial assets of five human rights workers and three non-governmental organizations frozen after allegations they accepted foreign funds without the government's approval.
Saturday's decision means the five human rights workers could face criminal charges that carry potential sentences of 25 years to life in prison, Al Jazeera reported. No criminal charges have been filed and Saturday's ruling can be appealed.
Among the men charged is Gamal Eid, a vocal critic of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Eid said he and the other groups are being targeted for exposing human rights abuses under the authoritarian Egyptian government.
Others arrested include investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat, who founded the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Bahey el Din Hassan, founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Mostafa al-Hassan, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre; and Abdel Hafiz el-Tayel, director of the Egyptian Center on the Right to Education.
NPR reported the organizations form the cornerstone of the Egyptian human rights community, which has been under siege since 2011, when the Egyptian government began cracking down on their organizations. The government previously issued travel bans, prohibiting human rights workers from leaving the country.
The move was criticized by Amnesty International, which called it a "shameless ploy to silence human rights activism."
Al Jazeera reported the Egyptian government has become increasingly hostile to pro-democracy and human rights groups, especially those that accept foreign funding from the West.