Judges in Egypt’s NGO trial pull out
Lead judge says court felt “uneasiness” as Washington exerts pressure on Cairo over case involving 16 US citizens.
All three judges in Egypt’s trial of 43 NGO workers have pulled out of the case, according to a court official.
The defendants, including 16 US citizens, are charged with using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest that has roiled Egypt over the past year.
The non-governmental organisations flatly deny the charges, and US officials have hinted foreign aid to Egypt could be in jeopardy because of the case.
Mohammed Shoukry, the lead judge in the case, said on Tuesday that “the court felt uneasiness” in handling the case, according to a court official. He did not elaborate.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said new judges would be assigned to the case.
The trial has so far only made it as far as its opening session, and would need to be restarted with a new panel of judges.
Combined with indications that the two countries are trying to find an acceptable resolution to the crisis, there is speculation that the case could be dropped.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told two senate panels on Tuesday that the US and Egypt, which has long been
considered a close ally of Washington, were “in very intensive discussions about finding a solution”.
“We’ve had a lot of very tough conversations,” she said. “We’re moving toward a resolution.”
“It’s important that they know that we are continuing to push them,” Clinton said.
Ahmed Seif al-Islam, an Egyptian lawyer and rights activist, said it was hard to interpret what was behind the resignations.
He said that judges tended to pull out of cases over relationships with defendants or their lawyers.
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