December 14, 2016
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition is extremely concerned about the escalation of crackdown on Egyptian Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and NGOs. The Egyptian government has been using a politically motivated case, 173 of the year 2011 known as the NGO Foreign Funding Case, to carry out systematic crackdowns against NGOs and human rights defenders.
The latest development in this case occurred on December 7, 2016, when Azza Soliman, a prominent women’s rights defender and lawyer was arrested on the order of an investigative judge in Case 173. Police forces arrived at her house in the morning of December 7, arrested her and took her to a police station and then to the office of the investigative judge, where she was questioned. She was faced with three preliminary charges, including “receiving foreign funding to harm the state’s interests.” Under Egypt’s penal code, this could be sentenced with up to life imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 Egyptian pounds. She was released on bail after she paid 20,000 Egyptian pounds, pending further court hearings.
On December 14, a court hearing is expected to decide on the freezing of Azza Soliman’s personal and organizational bank accounts (her private law firm). It should be noted that Soliman has not been officially informed of the pending court hearing, and only learned about it through the media. Prior to this development, Azza Soliman was informed by her bank that her accounts had been frozen. Despite her insistence, no official document has been provided to explain the reason for the freezing of her assets. The bank has however referred to a November 17 verdict by the Cairo Criminal Court to freeze her assets on order of one of the judges in Case 173. The verdict however has not been presented to Azza Soliman or anyone from her law firm. On November 19, while at the airport and attempting to go to Jordan to attend a women’s rights meeting, Azza Soliman was informed that she had been banned from travel.