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Egypt closes decade-old controversial NGOs foreign funding case

Published: Updated:

An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday ordered the closing of a long-running investigation into 20 non-governmental organizations accused of illegally receiving foreign funds, the court and a judicial source said.

“The designated Cairo Appeals court judge Ali Mokhtar issued an order that no criminal case may be opened into (the) 20 organizations... and that investigations have concluded,” said the Cairo Appeals Court in a statement.

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The case known locally as “Case 173” dates back to shortly after the 2011 revolution that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Authorities in December 2011 raided the headquarters of multiple NGOs including US-based Freedom House, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.

Egyptian state media accused them of involvement in a foreign plot to destabilize the country, in a case that strained ties between Cairo and the Obama administration.

The raids led to charges against 43 defendants, including Egyptians and other Arab citizens as well as Americans and Europeans.

Many, such as Sam Lahood -- son of Ray Lahood who served as US Transportation Secretary under Barack Obama -- had left Egypt but were tried in absentia.

In 2013 they were all handed prison terms of between one and five years.

In 2016, a court also froze the Egypt-based assets of several of the organizations and imposed travel bans on their staff, as well as opening investigations into new organizations and individuals.

In December 2018, the original 43 defendants were acquitted, but the asset freezes and travel bans remained in place.

A judicial source confirmed to AFP that Saturday’s ruling effectively closes the original case.

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