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Authorities seek to silence outspoken NGO following its exposure of widespread torture

(HRinfo/IFEX) - Egyptian human rights organizations joined forces and gathered inside the office of the Association of Human Rights and Legal Aid (AHRLA) on 8 September 2007 to stand up against the police measures taken by the Egyptian government to shut down the Association. The effort to close the organization appears to be in retaliation for its significant role in exposing the wave of widespread, institutionalized torture being practiced in Egypt.

Representatives from most of Egypt's human rights organizations rallied inside the office of AHRLA immediately after the Association was notified of an order for its closure. The ministry of social security alleged financial malfeasance in an attempt to defame AHRLA and concoct an excuse to shut it down. This effort follows on the heels of the Egyptian government's campaign to silence the voice of the country's main trade union organisation.

Since the exposure of the state's systematic use of torture, representatives of human rights organizations have protested against these practices by all available legitimate means: labor strikes, demonstrations, closing down websites, and exposing the practices of the Egyptian government before international organizations and regional unions (such as the European Union, the African Union, and the UN and its various committees). Egyptian human rights organizations also intend to sue the Egyptian government. In response, the government - instead of working to improve its human rights record - has shown a relentless desire to silence one of the most outspoken voices against these practices, using the various means available under the emergency laws, including unfair trails and press gags.

Egyptian human rights organizations are determined that AHRLA will not have its voice silenced under any circumstances. The Hisham Mubark centre and HRinfo are prepared to share their offices with the Association if the authorities forced AHRLA out of its current office. The Egyptian government's effort to defame AHRLA by purporting financial malfeasance was a culminating action that enraged human rights organizations and induced them to protest. The AHRLA suffers from a lack of funds but its conduct in no way justifies the actions of the ministry of social security; the ministry is merely a façade for the state security services whose iron hand is being laid upon freedom of the press and human rights.

"The attempt to shut down AHRLA will not succeed; it's a showdown between us and this police-minded government. The government falsely believes that it can do now as it did with the union centre, and is trying to hide this politically motivated decision behind a legal mask, which is an over-used practice. The government has no other resort but to reveal its true domineering face and send us to jail, or to acknowledge the right of civil society to work freely and independently," said representatives of human rights organizations.

Human rights activists refused to bring the case before the ineffective national council of human rights. "This council and its members know very well what is going on. The policy of compromise they promote is not effective anymore and they have to decide which side they will take - either to side with the government and its promised heaven, or to step up to the plate to join the people, and the civil organizations that truly represent them, in their struggle for a democratic life," said representatives of human rights organizations.

Among the organizations rallying to the Association's support are: the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information; Nadeem Center for Psychological Therapy and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence; Egyptian Association against Torture; Hisham Mubarak Law Center; the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement; Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-violence Studies; Cairo New Women's Foundation; the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists; the Egyptian Social Democratic Center; Land Centre for Human Rights; the Egyptian Centre for Development and Democratic Studies; the Egyptian Society for Participation and Sustained Development; the Arabic Centre for Democracy and Human Rights; the Society of Justice Advocates for Human Rights; the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights; Egyptian Association for Supporting Democracy; the Association of Health and Environmental Development; the Egyptian Association for the Support of Democratic Development; the Arab Institute for Civil Society and Human Rights Support; the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression; the Arab Penal Reform Organization; the Civil Observatory for Human Rights; the Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Syndicates; and the Association for Democratic Development.

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