Involving judiciary in foreign NGO case was a mistake


Serious concerns were raised about the independence of our judiciary after Egypt lifted the travel ban on 43 foreigners who were under investigation for operating unlicensed NGO’s and illegally receiving foreign funds. Sixteen of those released were U.S. citizens.

Personally, I believe it was a mistake to involve the judiciary in this sensitive matter. The courts were put in an impossible position: uphold the travel ban, convict the Americans, and cause an international incident; or release the Americans to travel and provoke the outrage of Egyptian citizens.

To make matters worse, the case was handled badly from the moment it was sent to the judges. The lack of transparency from the head of the Appeals Court, Judge Abdel-Moez Ibrahim, was aggravated when one of the judges hearing the case was suddenly recused on the grounds that his son works for an American organization. Abdel-Moez convened a new court, which quickly determined that the case was over the committing of misdemeanors and did not require imposing a travel ban on the defendants.

It would have been more prudent for the government and SCAF to handle this through the National Security Department and retain some flexibility over the outcome. The government could have dealt directly with the NGOs to find a way for them to come into compliance with the law, determine if there should be any fines, monitor the results, then turn the page. Egypt is surely not looking to create unnecessary conflict with the U.S.

translated from Al-Akhbar

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