Egypt judicary, politics firm on NGO’s of illegal activity
Ismail (C), Salafi MP, loudly recites the Muslim call to prayer in the parliament. AP photoIn a recent row between the United States and Egypt, Egyptian judges probing the alleged illegal foreign funding of non-governmental organizations yesterday accused the groups of illegal political activity, defending the planned trial of dozens in the case.
The NGOs being investigated are operating “without license” and their work “constitutes pure political activity and has nothing to do with civil society work,” Judge Sameh Abu Zeid told reporters. Nineteen Americans are among 40 foreign and Egyptian activists whose cases have been brought to criminal court by Egypt’s army-backed government. The White House said Feb. 6 that the Egyptian crackdown on pro-democracy groups could threaten the country’s $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. Before judge’s statement Egypt government also said yesterday it will not be swayed by aid to change course in a probe of foreign-funded pro-democracy groups and NGOs, a case that has strained ties with the United States, a major aid donor to Cairo. “Egypt will apply the law [...] in the case of NGOs and will not back down because of aid or other reasons,” Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri told a news conference, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, a Salafist MP suddenly stood up in the middle of a session of Egypt’s Parliament on Feb. 7 to issue a call for Muslim prayers, earning a reprimand from the speaker of Parliament. “I never gave you authorization. There is a mosque for the call to prayers,” said speaker Saad al-Katatni, himself a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Agence France-Presse reported. “This chamber is for debate [...] You are not more Muslim than the rest of us and we do not want to pray any less than you do,” said Katatni. Ismail, whose hardline Islamist party came second to the Brotherhood in a legislative election Islamists dominated, was called to order last month when he added that he would not violate God’s law to the swearing-in oath. Ismail said that he gave the call to prayer because it was the time of the afternoon prayer. “We are not in the Vatican, this is a Muslim country, we need to pray on time,” Ismail said after the session.