On 4 June 2013, the Cairo Criminal Court convicted 43 representatives of Foreign NGOs in Egypt on charges of operating unlawfully in the country and receiving foreign funding without permission.
Five of the workers were sentenced to two years in prison and eleven others to a one-year suspended sentence. Those sentenced to two years are: Egyptian nationals Yehia Ghanem, Sherif Mansour, and Mohamed Abdelaziz; Robert Becker of the US; and Christine Baade of Germany. In addition, 27 defendants were tried in absentia and the court sentenced them to five years, an automatic conviction because they were not present during the trial.
Sherif Mansour is currently the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator. He was sentenced based on the work he did with Freedom House, prior to joining CPJ. After news of his verdict surfaced, Mansour tweeted:
Not sure if my my 2 years came with suspension or not? I would like mine with extra suspension on the side! #sham #ngotrial— Sherif Mansour (@sherifmnsour) June 4, 2013
On 3 June, a day before the trial was to resume, Mansour reaffirmed his innocence and that of the other defendants:
No matter verdict on #ngotrial we are innocent in front of law & our concience. But wo'd b proud if Egypt's judges step up for civil society— Sherif Mansour (@sherifmnsour) June 3, 2013
Hafsa Halawa is program assistant at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Egypt and partly identifies herself on Twitter as 'Defendant no.28'. She took to Twitter to voice her concern about the future of foreign NGOs in Egypt and to implore the international community to rally behind Egyptian civil society.
Don't let this go once a new news cycle starts. We've shown we can't fight this alone. If #ngolaw isn't no.1 priority we all lose #ngotrial— Hafsa Halawa (@HafsaHalawa) June 5, 2013
So long as the public & politicians buy into the 'spy' conspiracy over foreign funding then there will never be reform #ngotrial— Hafsa Halawa (@HafsaHalawa) June 5, 2013
Robert Becker, a U.S. citizen and an NDI political parties trainer, was also sentenced to two years in prison. He tweeted:
Safely out of #Egypt. On my lawyers advice, I have unwillingly and angrily gone into exile until appeals get sorted out. #NGOtrial— Becker - روبرت بيكر (@rbecker51) June 4, 2013
Nancy Okail, director of Freedom House's Egypt office in Cairo, has been sentenced to five years in prison. She also expressed her outrage on Twitter and dedicated a Facebook post to her family, colleagues, friends, and supporters thanking them and apologising for burdening them with her struggle.
I was sentenced to 5years in prison in #NGOtrial for working on democracy & human rights while protestors killers were acquitted in #Egypt!!— Nancy Okail (@NancyGEO) June 4, 2013
to my family and friend who saw my through the awful #ngotrial facebook.com/photo.php?fbid…— Nancy Okail (@NancyGEO) June 4, 2013
Natasha Tynes, a Jordanian-American journalist working as a program director for the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), was also sentenced for five years in jail. She took to venting her anger in a blog post for the Huffington Post.
My latest Huff post blog: Training journalists got me five years in Egyptian prison #ngotrial #egypt #ngocrackdownm.huffpost.com/us/entry/33856…— Natasha Tynes (@NatashaTynes) June 5, 2013
Since the news broke out, Twitter has been aflutter with messages of support for those convicted and inquiries into what's next for them.
According to Human Rights Watch, the convicted workers may appeal the conviction before the Court of Cassation on the grounds that there has been an error in law, and seek a retrial. The president also has the discretionary power under the constitution and the code of criminal procedure to issue a pardon.
On the same day as the verdicts were announced, Mansour, rather optimistically, asserted to his followers on Twitter:
Obviously we will fight this, as we started, to the end. Appeal will be filed soon and all will be freed and acquitted in #ngotrial— Sherif Mansour (@sherifmnsour) June 4, 2013