A judge ordered the release of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies’ (CIHRS) Cairo head Mohamed Zaree on bail after questioning him in relation to a case against non-governmental organizations that started in 2011.
Zarea has been charged with receiving funds from foreign entities and spending them unlawfully with the intention of harming national security and national interests.
His lawyers challenged investigations judge Abdel Meguid’s jurisdiction over the case, as Egypt’s Penal Code stipulates that one judge should only proceed over such a case for 6 months, although this can be renewed once, whereas Abdel Meguid’s jurisdiction has been renewed for 3 years.
Zarea’s defence team called former interior ministers Mohamed Ibrahim and Ahmed Gamal al-Din, along with former ministers Ahmed al-Borai, Ahmed Mekki, and Amin al-Mahdy, in addition to former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf as witnesses in the case, based on their former dealings with CIHRS, lawyer Negad al-Borai said in a statement on Facebook.
Hesham Abdel Meguid ordered Zaree’s release on bail of LE30,000 (about US$1,670).
He was initially called for questioning in mid-May, but this was postponed after Zarea’s request to view the case files.
The human rights lawyer was banned from travelling in May 2016, along with several other Egyptian rights workers in the same case.
Others who have been questioned or banned from travel include the director of Nazra Center for Feminist Studies Mozn Hassan, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid, human rights defender and journalist Hossam Bahgat, Aida Seif al-Dawla, one of the founders of Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, among others.
Zarea was nominated for the Martin Ennals Award earlier this month. The award website described him as “leading the Forum of Independent Egyptian Human Rights NGOs, empowering its members, and coordinating their efforts to have a prevailing impact on vital human rights issues.”
Last month, the director of the Hesham Mubarak Law Center, Mostafa Hassan, was questioned and released on LE20,000 bail on charges of establishing an organization in violation of Egypt’s NGO law, receiving foreign funding and tax evasion.
Abdel Meguid also ordered the release of Azza Soliman, head of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance in December on LE20,000 bail after questioning her. Police had arrested Soliman from her house and escorted her to Abdel Meguid’s office after he issued an order for her interrogation.