Amnesty International has called on Egypt to lift travel bans, asset freezes and stop harassing NGOs after Egyptian human rights advocate Azza Soliman was cleared of charges against her in a terror court but remains banned from travelling.
Azza, a lawyer and women’s rights activist who defended rape, torture and arbitrary detention victims, had charges brought against her after the Egyptian uprising in what the state-run media has called the “foreign funding case”, or Case 173.
In December 2011 security services raided the headquarters of several NGOs and accused them of creating a foreign plot to destabilise Egypt.
Azza is one of 43 Egyptian and foreign NGO staff who were sentenced to between one and five years whilst several international NGOs were shut down after authorities accused them of illegally receiving foreign funds and operating without the necessary approval.
In 2016 a court froze the assets of several of the NGOs, banned some of their employees from travelling and brought new charges against other staff and organisations.
Despite the fact that the 43 people were acquitted in 2018, the travel ban and asset freeze remains in place.
In a joint statement, FEMENA and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) are among the organisations that have condemned the continued targeting of female, Egyptian human rights advocates “through unjust travel bans and asset freezes despite the full exoneration of these individuals from Case 173 of 2011.”
On 9 December 2021 journalist Esraa Abdelfattah travelled to Paris to receive an honourary citizenship award after spending almost two years in detention.
Esraa had been banned from travelling since 2015 and before being arrested was repeatedly called in for questioning over the “foreign funding case.”
“While we welcome the fact that the travel ban of [women human rights defender] WHRD and journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah was lifted, enabling her to travel on 9 December 2021 to Paris to receive an honorary citizenship award, Soliman still faces a detrimental travel ban and asset freeze,” said the organisations in their joint statement.
“Other WHRDs and feminists still remain subject to prosecution in Case 173, an unjust, baseless impediment to their work and lives.”