Egyptian Court Postpones NGO Trial
The trial of 43 NGO employees in Egypt, the proceedings of which have been denounced by U.S. officials, has been postponed until December 2. The employees were charged with “leading unregistered organizations and receiving illegal foreign funding.” However, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson has said they “were carrying out their work in complete transparency and goodwill in an effort to support and develop Egyptian civil society.” Though a number of the defendants remained optimistic that “the judicial system will recognize the case as politically motivated,” they also acknowledged that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ crackdown on NGOs in 2011 has had a “chilling effect on…civil society activity, and on financial support for it.” Critics argue that U.S. foreign policy has been too “security-centric” and despite the Obama Administration’s rhetorical support for the NGO community, they have not been resolute in demanding that military aid be conditional on “respecting democratic and human rights.”
Protests took place on November 1 as Islamist groups crowded Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding that “the principles of Sharia” law be the “only source of legislation” in the new Egyptian constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood did not participate in the protests, stated that they were committed to “enshrining Islamic [Sharia] as the main source” of the new constitution. The Constitutional Assembly drafting the document has proposed a number of solutions to the conflict, particularly with regard to Article 68, which addresses the equality of men and women. A proposal to completely abolish the article was rejected, but a compromise was reached to add a new article specifying rights guaranteed to women by the state. Another article criminalizing all forms of slavery and trafficking of women is also under debate.