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Egypt: Presidential Decree Enhances Punishments Against Legal Persons and Individuals Receiving Foreign Funding

(Sept. 26, 2014) On September 21, 2014, President Abdal Fatah al Sisi of Egypt issued Presidential Decree No. 128 of 2014, amending article 78 of the country’s Penal Code with the aim ofimpeding foreign funding of individuals and local organizations operating in Egypt. (Presidential Decree No. 128 of 2014, 38(bis)(a) AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH (Sept. 21, 2014).)

The amendment provides that an individual requesting or receiving transferred or liquid money, arms, or equipment from a foreign country or a foreign or local private organization, with the aim of pursuing acts harmful to the national interest or destabilizing the general peace or the country’s independence and unity, will be penalized with a life sentence and a fine of at least LE500,000 (about US$69,000) and up to the amount the individual had been promised. (Id.)

The provision also grants the court the right to impose a death sentence or life imprisonment in cases where the perpetrator of such acts is a civil servant. In addition, the article states that those who mediate the request or receipt of the funds or arms in any written form, whether in hard copy or electronically, will be subject to the same charges. (Id.)

Members of civil society organizations operating in Egypt voiced their concern about Decree No. 128. According to news reports, representatives of NGOs stated that the amended article could easily be misused by prosecutors and police to arrest human rights defenders, on the basis that their work harms the national interest or is destabilizing to general peace. (Patrick Kingsley, Egypt’s Human Rights Groups “Targeted” by Crackdown on Foreign Funding, GUARDIAN (Sept. 24, 2014).)

The NGO representatives also say that making a film about poverty or writing a report about a protest, attacks on the Coptic Christian minority, or human rights abuses in Sinai could be deemed by the authorities to be acts that are harmful to national unity or are destabilizing. (Id.) Finally, individuals working or civil society organizations and NGOs claim that the new amendment imposes an unjustified restriction on the work they do. They stated that the Penal Code already includes articles that could be used to prosecute individuals committing acts considered violations of the country’s national security. (Id.)