allAfrica.com: Egypt: Politically Motivated Case a Fatal Blow to Freedom of Expression and Association

 … this unjust ruling represents a fatal blow to the objectives of the revolution and democratization and further entrenches the pillars of the new system of authoritarian rule, which is exhibiting unremitting hostility to civil society. Inspired by the former regime, the current authorities have excluded civil society, harassed human rights defenders and democracy activists, criminalized their activities, and used the media to defame civic organizations and promote views hostile to the universal values of human rights. The current authorities have further deployed the security apparatus to block civic initiatives, denied victims of abuses of their rights and legal support, and dragged the judiciary into their deceitful battle against civil society…

 

Finally, we note that the current authorities still have the opportunity to renounce their aspiration to restrict the activities of organizations advocating democracy and human rights by withdrawing its repressive NGO bill and using the powers granted to the president by Article 149 of the constitution – which have been used more than once to grant amnesties for detainees and prisoners affiliated with armed Islamist movements – to issue a pardon for the democracy advocates and human rights defenders convicted in this clearly political case.

 

Signatories: Cairo Institute for human rights studies (CIHRS), Andalus Institute for Tolerance & Anti-violence Studies (AITAS), Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Arab organization for human rights, Arab Penal Reform Organization, Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques (ACT), Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Aid, Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Egyptian women’s union, Habi Center for Environmental Rights, Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Human Right association for the Assistance of Prisoners, Masriyon Against Religious Discrimination, Nazra for Feminist Studies, New Woman Foundation, The Egyptian Association For Community Participation Enhancement, The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights.

Middle East Voices: INSIGHT: NGO Verdict Revives Calls for Reevaluating US Assistance to Egypt, by Nancy Messieh

… Twenty-seven defendants, among them 15 U.S. citizens, were sentenced to five years in prison in absentia. Eleven Egyptians received one-year suspended sentences, while five defendants received two-year sentences, among them Robert Becker, a U.S. citizen and former National Democratic Institute (NDI) employee who was living in Cairo, and fled only a few hours after the verdict was issued.

 

The harsh verdict stands in stark contrast to the ever-elusive accountability that is missing from Egypt’s courts, and is a key reminder of the judiciary’s unpredictability. Judge Makram Awad, the judge presiding over the NGO trial, has been involved in at least one other high profile case in recent months. He delivered a mere three-year prison sentence to the ‘Eye Sniper,’ a police officer charged with killing protesters. The verdict it is yet another symptom of Egypt’s lack of transitional justice. In this case, it is even more of a concern when the same judge issues harsher penalties to defenders of democracy than to those accused of killing protesters…

 

… Secretary of State John Kerry issued a comparatively mild statement, expressing concern over the verdicts. Describing the trial as “politically-motivated,” Kerry said, “I urge the Government of Egypt to work with civic groups as they respond to the Egyptian people’s aspirations for democracy as guaranteed in Egypt’s new constitution.”

 

The fact that the statement came from Kerry himself is indicative of the gravity of the situation, however the statement was defeatist, and made no reference to the appeals process…