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Amnesty International calls for end to NGO charges in Egypt

March 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM   |   Comments

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CAIRO, March 2 (UPI) -- Amnesty International is urging Egyptian officials to drop all charges against aid group members on trial for allegedly violating the country's association law.

The international human rights organization said while it welcomes the decision to end a travel ban placed on seven Americans facing trial in Egypt's crackdown on non-governmental organizations, all charges against those detained must be dropped and the harassment of NGO members must end, Bikyamasr.com reported Friday.

In one case, 43 people are on trial for allegedly breaking Egypt's Law on Associations. All but 14 are foreign nationals, Bikyamasr.com said.

"The Egyptian authorities must not use this heavily publicized case to distract international attention from the situation faced by human rights organizations in Egypt," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"When the international attention is gone, human rights activists in Egypt will bear the brunt of this offensive, both in court, and under the threat of an even more repressive Law on Associations."

Court of Appeals judges set bail for the U.S. nationals at $332,000. Nine other U.S. nationals left the country before the travel ban was invoked.

The Egyptian news Web site said U.S. authorities were considering freezing $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt to pressure officials into dropping the case.

Others on trial include Egyptians, Serbs, Norwegians and Germans. Bikyamasr.com said Palestinians and Jordanians are also believed to have been charged.

The NGO staff members are accused of working for organizations that illegally accepted foreign funding and of working illegally in the country.

Bikyamasr said the judges in the case recused themselves Wednesday and the trial is on hold until April.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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