Authorities in Cairo have referred 19 Americans and two dozen others for criminal trials as part of an investigation into foreign funding of Egyptian nonprofits, putting a new strain on Egyptian-American relations. The Obama administration warned that the action, which appears to threaten the independence of civil society groups, could jeopardize $1.5 billion in expected American aid to Egypt this year.
Among those facing trial are Americans involved in organizations that have worked for democracy in countries around the world.
As New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick explains below, the trials would depend on using Mubarak-era laws aimed at discouraging the formation and domestic funding of civil society groups critical of the government. —ARK
The New York Times:
The prosecution relies on laws left over from the authoritarian government of former President Hosni Mubarak that have in effect kept virtually every independent civil society organization here in a kind of legal twilight, subject to arrest at any time.
The laws require all civil society groups to register for a government license which, in practice, is almost never granted to a genuinely independent group that might criticize the government or its policies. Given the legal and political risks, the laws have the added effect of virtually eliminating domestic donations to support such groups.
The laws also require that any foreign financing to Egyptian nonprofit groups flow only through a government ministry and only to licensed groups. Because of the paucity of domestic financing, foreign funds, mainly from the United States and Europe, have been the mainstay of human rights groups here.