Interview with Jonathan Moremi from Words & Swords:

… One American however did not board the plane: Robert Becker, Political Party Trainer and Election Observer with the NDI, stayed in Egypt despite his NGO employer demanding him to do otherwise. Together with his Egyptian staff he has been facing the ongoing NGO trial ever since, spending almost every 4 weeks for hours in a cage at the Cairo court hoping that one day the verdict will show, that they are all not guilty and can go free…

VIDEO: Click to view 5-part video interview.

grab-tiffExcerpts from Robert Becker:

The plane left without him – fired by NDI – in clash with US foreign policy – Fayza Aboul Naga started this smear campaign

I got fired. Did it upset me – yeah, it did. On the other hand I did defy direct orders.

 

It was an assault on civil society and I personally decided that it was a fight worth fighting.

 

There was a working theory: If all the foreigners left, the Egyptian government would go easy on the Egyptian staff. To which I countered my working theory, that if all the foreigners leave, they might retaliate against the Egyptian staff.

 

If democracy is to survive in Egypt following the revolution, the citizens have to be a part of it. People have to not fear organising at the local level. – This democracy won’t survive without the active participation of the Egyptian people.

 

How dare we as an American NGO come to this country and preach democracy and preach human rights – and the first time that we get hit with some paperwork felonies the instinct is to run.

 

All NGOs felt that they were very wronged in this raid. The 15 of us that are standing in the cage – I think we all wish our governments would be a bit more vocal.

 

So far there hasn’t been any evidence presented against us. If you ask me who started this and who I would pin the blame on I would say former Minister Fayza Aboul Naga. Her testimony was rather outstanding. She proved our point that this is simply a political case. None of her testimonies had anything to do with the charges brought against us.

 

Is it a “smear campaign”? Yes, it is.

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… There are 13 Egyptians in that case who took these jobs to help improve their country. To me they’re great patriots. Their only ‘crime’ is to work very hard to see a better Egypt.

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…. Okasha in his talk show was calling for our execution, questioning the patriotism of the Egyptians that worked for these NGOs. You had members of parliament that were doing the same thing. – I had more than a fair share of death threats in January and February 2012.

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The Morsi administration could have reached out to organisations, parties and groups outside of their folds, in the human rights world, in the judicial reform world, with the liberal parties, to build sort of a national consensus for the need for change. To bring people inside the tent to build a better Egypt. Instead they did the decree and sort of fast tracked this whole process and made it clear that they did not want the help of any outside party.

 

The lesson that Egyptians in power need to learn: In a democracy there’s winning and there’s losing. When you win the parliament, you control the spoils of winning. But when you’re writing a constitution or when you try to address the nation as a whole you have to reach out and work across party lines, across ideological lines. Otherwise you get into a bunker mentality…

 

… Moving forward, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to get out of its bunker mentality. They need to start reaching out to the NGO world, civil society world, the political parties, because there are very, very large problems that need solutions.

 

The thing I think is missing the most now in Egyptian politics from all sides is the dignity. With lot of the economic things that are coming out, there is not a lot of thought process about what this is doing to the dignity of the Egyptian man or woman the way they are living in the country. And the biggest assault I have seen in this country is an assault on their dignity.