U.N. troubled by Egypt's NGO crackdown

June 7, 2013 at 12:23 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, June 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations said it was troubled by a ruling by a court in Cairo against civil organizations, accusing them of operating illegally with foreign money.

A criminal court in Cairo found 43 staff members from non-governmental organizations guilty of violating laws restricting their work. They were accused of accepting foreign funds and operating illegally. More than half of them were sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there were concerns Egyptian authorities were using vaguely worded laws from before the 2011 revolution to limit the right to freedom of association.

Colville said Friday his office was "very concerned" about the verdict.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with concern about the convictions with members of the Egyptian government.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced Thursday a hearing was scheduled next week to address the issue.

Charles Dunne, director of Middle East programs at Freedom House, is scheduled to testify Wednesday. Freedom House staff members were among those convicted this week.

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