Egypt’s Court of Cassation ordered on Thursday the annulment of previous prison sentences handed to 16 defendants, Egyptians and foreigners, working for foreign NGOs in Egypt prior to 2013, and ordered a retrial before a criminal court.
In June 2013, 43 civil society workers were sentenced by Cairo Criminal Court in a 2011 case against foreign and Egyptian NGO workers. Twenty-three of the defendants were sentenced to between two and five years in prison, and 11 others were given suspended sentences of one year for operating unlicensed non-governmental organizations and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security.
The annulment will benefit all of the defendants, not just those who submitted appeals, as all of them will now have the right to appoint lawyers to represent them in the retrial, according to a 2017 legal amendment, lawyer Negad al-Borai told Mada Masr. Those who were sentenced in absentia will also be tried in the same criminal court.
“The ruling is positive, but defendants have been subjected to actual harm, and there should be a legal stipulation that obliges the Justice Ministry to compensate defendants for incorrect sentences,” Borai added.
The 2013 verdict also ordered the dismantling of the Cairo offices of four American organizations and one German organization: The International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Egyptian authorities stormed the offices of these civil society organizations, and formed a commission to investigate allegations that they were receiving foreign funding to provoke unrest in the country.
In March 2012, 17 foreigners sentenced in the case left the country, after being released on LE2 million bail each.