ahramonline, by Bel Trew:

… The fate of Egypt’s civil society remains hung in the balance as the Egyptian government struggles to redraft controversial NGO legislation and civic associations await the verdict of the foreign NGO trial, which was recently adjourned for the tenth time…

 

…It was a fight between two countries, America and Egypt, and the defendants are in the middle,’ says Sarwat Abdel-Shahid, lawyer for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), one of the US NGOs whose employees are on trial…

 

… A 2004 communiqué between former Secretary of State Colin Powel and then Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit affirmed that the US government could fund chosen local and international NGOs directly…

 

… “It was much bigger than the government thought it would ever be,” recalls Hafsa Halawa, a British-Egyptian NDI programme assistant, who is currently facing trial…

 

… “They stripped us bare five days before the elections, during which we worked,” adds Robert Becker, the only American NGO employee who stayed in Egypt to face trial. The same government that had shut down their offices, Becker explains, gave NDI accreditation to monitor the parliamentary elections a week later…

 

… “I was interrogated for hours about events that took place in 2006, when I arrived in the country for the first time in July 2011,” explains Becker.

 

“Halawa says that she was asked ‘whether I thought the US had violated the Camp David Accords by giving out the $65 million package.’

 

“Meanwhile, Rawda Ali, another NDI programme assistant, was questioned about the ‘destruction our organisation had caused to the Egyptian economy’…

 

… “[On TV] the prosecutor called us spies, said we were working for foreign governments to spread chaos,” explains Ali. “Mostafa Bakri called for our execution.”

 

Their names, passport numbers, addresses and telephone numbers were then put online…

 

When asked how they felt about the departure of their international colleagues, there was an awkward silence. “Let’s just say I was surprised when I saw the video footage online of the plane leaving,” Halawa says carefully. “The exodus of the foreigners, who were mostly senior members of staff, had a significant impact on Robert, as he is now being charged as a manager not an employee, which could carry a heftier jail sentence.

 

… “I wasn’t in charge. I had four bosses above me,” he told Ahram Online. “But I’m the most senior one left here in Egypt … I was just a political party trainer.” The NDI fired Robert when he refused to leave the country… “How dare we come to Egypt, operate and hire Egyptian staff, convince them it is a good organisation to work for and then abandon them?” he adds…

Sham trial?

… The prosecution witness statements and evidence submitted illustrate the real motive behind the charges.

 

… “Abul-Naga gave a two hour historical testimony of Egypt-US relations over funding economic aid,” recalls Halawa. “She dug her own grave by admitting that it was all about the US Congress’s unilateral decision to move the money.”

 

Abul-Naga accused the defendants of allegedly colluding with opposition movements within the security forces to instigate the events of 25 January, Ali describes. When the judge asked Abul-Naga, what her testimony had to do with the individuals on trial, she reportedly admitted to not knowing who they were or why they were there…