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Amnesty accuses Egypt of holding NGOs 'hostage'

London - Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Egypt of holding civil society groups “hostage” with a law dating back to ousted president Hosni Mubarak's regime.

“Egyptian authorities should scrap a Mubarak-era law used to prosecute civil society and ensure its planned replacement upholds the right to freedom of association,” the London-based group said.

An Egyptian protestor holds up his national flag during a protest outside the state television building in Cairo. Credit: AP

Egypt is to try 44 people over the alleged illegal funding of aid groups, a judicial source in Cairo said on Sunday.

The case comes after the offices of several NGOs, including US organisations International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, were raided in December.

The source said the 44 suspects, including 19 Americans, were accused of “setting up branches of international organisations in Egypt without a licence from the Egyptian government” and of “receiving illegal foreign funding.”

Amnesty, in a statement entitled “Stop holding NGOs hostage,” called for the charges, “based on Egypt's repressive laws on civil society registration and foreign funding, to be dropped.”

“These international associations have become the latest scapegoats as the authorities desperately spin their story of foreign conspiracies,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme. - Sapa-AFP

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