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Defendants in Egypt's NGO trial take to Twitter

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:

On 3 June, a day before the trial was to resume, Mansour reaffirmed his innocence and that of the other defendants:

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.

Robert Becker, a U.S. citizen and an NDI political parties trainer, was also sentenced to two years in prison. He tweeted:

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.

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.

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:

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