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U.S. slams Egyptian sentences on NGO representatives


08:22, June 05, 2013

WASHINGTON, June 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday slammed the prison sentences handed down by an Egyptian court on 43 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO).

"The United States is deeply concerned by the guilty verdicts and sentences, including the suspended sentences, handed down by an Egyptian court today against 43 NGO representatives in what was a politically-motivated trial," the top American envoy said in a statement.

"This decision runs contrary to the universal principle of freedom of association and is incompatible with the transition to democracy" underway in Egypt, he added.

The Cairo criminal court sentenced the NGO employees, including Egyptians and foreigners, to prison terms ranging from one to five years on charges of receiving funds from foreign countries in violation of Egypt's law.

It also ordered suspension of the operations of all NGOs that have received foreign funds, closure of their headquarters and branches, and confiscation of their documents and assets.

"The decision to close these organizations' offices and seize their assets contradicts the government of Egypt's commitments to support the role of civil society as a fundamental actor in a democracy and contributor to development, especially at this critical stage in the Egyptian people's democratic transition," Kerry said.

Egyptian security forces raided some NGO offices in December 2011 and confiscated materials as part of an investigation into their alleged illegal funding from foreign countries.

The episode once strained relations with the United States, as Washington responded by threatening to halt its annual billion- dollar aid to Egypt. Some of the NGO activists, mostly foreigners, were allowed to leave the Arab country later.

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