A Cairo court has issued a request to freeze the assets of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies, an independent research institution that aims to eliminate discrimination in Egypt, pending investigations into receiving foreign funding and defaming Egypt’s image abroad, the state-owned newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Monday.
Under a 2014 law, receiving foreign funding “with the aim of pursuing acts harmful to national interests or destabilizing to general peace or the country’s independence and its unity” can be punished with life in prison.
The organization has not been officially informed of the requested asset freeze and only received the news through media reports, Andalus’s Executive Director Samar al-Husseiny told Mada Masr.
“We are astonished, because we don’t have any assets,” said General Manager Ahmed Sami. He is unsure whether the potential asset freeze will prevent them from entering the organization’s rented office, he added.
On March 29, three people associated with Andalus were summoned for questioning in connection with the case. Another court date is scheduled for this Wednesday.
Andalus is among dozens of local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have been swept up in an investigation into foreign funding of civil society groups that dates back to 2011.
In recent months, the investigation, known as Case No. 173 or the foreign funding case, has also targeted the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and the law firm United Group.
Founders and directors of these groups have also been individually targeted, including Hossam Bahgat, founder of EIPR, and Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI, both of whom are banned from leaving Egypt.
The case began in December 2011, when 43 workers for foreign NGOs were charged with operating an organization and receiving funds from a foreign government without a license. In June 2013, all the defendants — including 17 US citizens, other foreigners and Egyptians — were sentenced from one to five years in prison, many of them in absentia. The court also ordered the closure of the implicated NGOs, including the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.
The sentences and the closures sparked international outrage
At the time, it was unclear whether employees of local organizations named in the investigation would be brought to trial. The investigation was revived in early 2016, but no formal indictments have been made.
Rights advocates claim the investigation is an attempt to silence human rights watchdogs and other critical voices. “The continued use of the foreign funding case to exact revenge against Egyptian civil society is helping annihilate the Egyptian rights movement and is seeking to eliminate civil society organizations,” wrote eight local NGOs in an open letter.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Andalus Institute for Tolerance had its assets frozen. It has been amended to reflect the fact that a request has been issued to freeze the assets.