CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling to freeze the assets of three prominent rights activists, the latest chapter in a widening government crackdown against civil society groups.
The verdict targeted Mozn Hassan and her group, Nazra for Feminist Studies, as well as Mohammed Zaraa and Atef Hafez, both of the Arab Organization for Criminal Reform.
The freezing of their assets and those of five other rights campaigners in September is part of a wider case against at least 12 rights groups that dates back to 2011, but which was revived in 2015.
The eight face allegations they illegally obtained foreign funds which were subsequently used to destabilize Egypt, where authorities have since the 2013 ouster of an Islamist president killed hundreds of Islamists and jailed thousands more.
Since his election in 2014, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been focused on reviving Egypt's ailing economy, upgrading its rickety infrastructure and battling Islamic State militants in the Sinai Peninsula. A career army officer, el-Sissi has defended his country's human rights record, arguing on several occasions that it should not be judged by Western standards and that the right to education, decent housing and health care is just as important as freedom of expression.
However, authorities have steadily moved to erode many of the freedoms won by the 2011 popular uprising that toppled the regime of long-ruling autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Ironically, a new constitution ratified in a 2014 referendum is by far the most liberal and progressive Egypt ever had, but clauses in that document guaranteeing freedoms, privacy or human rights have largely been ignored by authorities.