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Cairo convicts American NGOs straining relations with Washington

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Cairo convicts American NGOs straining relations with Washington
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A Cairo court has convicted 43 employees of non-governmental organisations (NGO) for working illegally in Egypt.

Of the 43, 16 are American. Most of the defendants were tried in absentia and given 5-year jail terms. The court also seized the assets of several NGOs belonging to the US.

The case which dates back to 2012 has strained relations between Cairo and Washington.

The prosecution had accused the NGOs of using their foreign funding to influence Egypt’s democratic elections.

Only five defendants were in court including one German woman and an American – both of them were jailed for two years.

After the trial Defence lawyer Nasr Al Kholi said the decision had been political, but was not irrevocable and appeals would be launched. He said the verdict had failed to follow due process and there were inequalities in the sentencing.

Cairo is known to be angry over a US decision to divert millions of dollars from its Egypt aid budget to these NGOs after the ousting of President Mubarak.

Our correspondent Mohammed Shaikhibrahim said: “International concern is growing after this trial. The country’s parliament is currently discussing a draft law which will regulate civil society – a step which some humanitarian groups see as intrusive. Their freedom to operate will now be restricted by the courts and possibly by other laws looking into the funding of independent groups.”