CAIRO, Mar 22 (Aswat Masriya) - The head of the judicial committee investigating what has become known as the NGO foreign funding case announced on Monday the enforcement of a media gag, except for official statements coming out of the committee.
Investigation into the case, which dates back to 2011, was reopened last week, and has been described by rights groups as part of the "escalating assault" on civil society in Egypt.
The case has triggered heavy criticism against Egypt since it started more than four years ago with Egyptian authorities raiding several NGOs and launching an investigation into foreign funding received by NGOs.
It later came to be known as the NGO trial, in which 43 Egyptians and foreigners were convicted in 2013.
The court ordered the closure of the NGOs involved in the case, including the U.S.-based International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House.
After the investigating committee reopened the investigation into the case last week, it barred four rights defenders and their families from disposing of their funds. The temporary decision includes Gamal Eid and Hossam Bahgat, two leading Egyptian rights defenders. A Cairo court was due to decide on Saturday on whether the decision will be upheld, but the court postponed the decision to Mar. 24.
The director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Eid, said on Saturday in a message on Twitter that the biggest crime is born when injustice wears the robe of the judiciary. Bahgat, the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said on Thursday that he learned that all his assets had been frozen from news on state media.
Egyptian prosecution has ordered several media gags over the past few years on a variety of cases, including the killing of Mexican tourists in September, as well as various Sinai militancy cases, and former president Mohamed Mursi's espionage case.