Case to determine whether to freeze assets of Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid adjourned to May 23

The prosecution requested an adjournment to revise case papers and contact other defendants in a session to determine whether or not to freeze the assets of human rights workers Gamal Eid and Hossam Bahgat on Wednesday morning.

The case was subsequently adjourned for a month to May 23. 

On Tuesday, an investigative judge submitted four additional people to the court proceedings: Bahey Eddin Hassan — founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, as well as another employee at the center, Mostafa al-Hassan — manager of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and Abdel Hafez Tayel — head of the Egyptian Center for Right to Education.

Cairo Criminal Court had announced that the four new defendants would be included in today’s session, along with journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Hossam Bahgat and head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid and his wife and daughter.

Bahagt and Eid appeared previously before the court on March 23 for the first session to review the investigative judge’s request to freeze their assets, but the session was adjourned to April 20 at the prosecution’s request.

Authorities reopened investigations in a 2011 case accusing a number of NGOs of receiving foreign funding without a license. The revival of the case comes amid mounting international criticism of Egypt’s human rights record.

When the case started in 2011 it was divided into two categories: one dealing with foreign NGOs and the other with local organizations.

In June 2013, all defendants in foreign NGOs were sentenced to one to five years in prison, most in absentia, and Egyptian defendants were given suspended sentences. Authorities are now resuming investigations into local NGOs.

Both Eid and Bahgat were informed of travel bans issued against them as they tried to leave Egypt from Cairo Airport on separate occasions in February, but were not summoned to court until recently. 

On Tuesday, the State Council’s administrative court issued a historic ruling stipulating that NGOs are permitted to receive foreign funding, as long as there is no evidence it is being used to harm national security and/or public order.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement on Tuesday saying all defendants in the NGO case “must be able to benefit from due process and fair trial standards.” He emphasized how important it is that human rights defenders, media and civil society organizations be able to work without restrictions. 

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid denounced the UN’s issuing of a statement ahead of the court session. He added that Egypt rejects any attempts to influence or intimidate the judiciary. 

AD