Published On: Tue, Jun 4th, 2013

Egypt courts hands jail terms to 43 NGO workers, including 15 US citizens

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Friends of Egyptian suspects react as they listen to the judge's verdict at a court room during a case against foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Cairo June 4, 2013 (Reuters / Asmaa Waguih)

Friends of Egyptian suspects react as they listen to the judge’s verdict at a court room during a case against foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Cairo June 4, 2013 (Reuters / Asmaa Waguih)

Cairo criminal court has convicted 43 NGO workers, including at least 16 Americans, for illegally operating in Egypt. It also ordered the closure of offices and the seizure of assets belonging to US NGOs.

The court sentenced Egyptian and foreign defendants, most of whom were not present at the hearing, to jail terms of one to five years.

Twenty-seven defendants received five years in prison, another five – two years and 11 were given one-year terms.

Judge Makram Awad gave five-year sentences in absentia to at least 15 US citizens who were not in the country.

Many of the foreigners – nationals of the US, five Serbs, two Germans and three non-Egyptian Arab nationals – have already left the country.

Among the Americans is Sam LaHood, the head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the son of the US Transportation Secretary. He managed to leave the country after a travel ban against them was lifted in March 2012. All of them were initially barred from leaving Egypt.

The defendants say they will appeal against the sentences, according to AFP.

Besides the jail terms, the court ordered the closure of the non-governmental organizations, including the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI), chaired by Republican senator John McCain, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

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