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Egypt: Crackdown on NGOs Condemned

Human Rights Watch condemned the Egyptian government's escalating attacks on independent human rights activists and organizations.

This latest raid comes in the wake of the closure last week of the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies; the arrest of its director, Dr Saadeddin Ibrahim; and the issuance of summons against several others connected with the center. Human Rights Watch has not yet had a response to its letter of July 2 asking Egypt's Prosecutor General for immediate clarification of the charges and evidence against Dr Ibrahim and two others then being held in preventive detention. They reportedly face charges of forgery relating to the forthcoming parliamentary elections, and Dr Ibrahim is further accused of unauthorized fundraising and accepting foreign funds with the intent of damaging Egypt's reputation domestically and internationally. The center was preparing a training video and planning to monitor the elections scheduled for November.

"Arresting activists and conducting late night raids on independent organizations is what is damaging Egypt's reputation," said Hanny Megally, the executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division. "These attacks are clearly intended to intimidate and hamper the work of independent non-governmental groups in the run-up to the elections."

Such closures violate the basic right to freedom of association, which Egypt is committed to uphold, and are contrary to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in December 1998.

"It is difficult to separate these measures from the government-sponsored legislation governing the activities of non-governmental organizations, which we believe would have eroded and undermined the work of human rights defenders," Megally said. Law No.153/1999, regulating the status of civil associations and institutions in Egypt, was declared unconstitutional by the country's Constitutional Court on June 3 of this year.

Dr Ibrahim and at least three others (Tamer Nabil, Ahmad Ata, and Tareq Hassan), are currently being held in al-Torah Prison. Nadia Abd al-Nour, a Sudanese national and finance director of the Ibn Khaldun Centre, is being held at the Women's Prison in Qanater. She had begun a hunger strike following her arrest on June 30 in protest against her conditions of detention and denial of access to family members. She was subsequently transferred to another part of the prison and allowed a visit from her brother, ending her hunger strike. Dr Ibrahim was allowed a visit by his wife. No information is available on the situation of the other detainees.

Both the Ibn Khaldun Centre and Hay'at Da'am al-Nakhibat had applied for registration under this law and were awaiting a decision when the law was abrogated. The director of Hay'at Da'am al-Nakhibat, Amina Shafiq, a journalist with the daily newspaper Al-Ahram and a prominent human rights activist, is a trustee of the Ibn Khaldun Centre, while Dr Ibrahim is the Treasurer of Hay'at Da'am al-Nakhibat.

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