Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4th on Trial

I want to wish everyone a very happy Fourth of July. I plan to spend my day going to the Nationals game with friends, binging on Freedom Fries, and watching the fireworks over the National Mall. But for this post, I wanted to remember two groups of people who will have an entirely different kind of Fourth of July. Their Fourth of July won’t be about friends, fries, and fireworks. But what they will go through today should remind all of us what the Fourth truly should be about: how lucky we are to live in a free nation.

In Egypt, the political trial against NGOs promoting Egyptian democracy restarts today with high profile testimony from prosecution witnesses. According to Fayza Aboulnaga, the minister who is spearheading the crackdown against the NGOs, the accused organizations were operating without a license and are therefore subject to prosecution. But Freedom House president David Kramer, refutes Aboulnaga’s accusations and argues persuasively that the trial is part of a larger crackdown against civil society by remnants of the Mubarak regime intent on aborting the revolution.  Forty three defendants stand accused, but only a fraction will attend court tomorrow. After months of pressure, the US government convinced the Egyptian authorities to allow the accused Americans to leave the country. The Egyptians remain to face trial, but they won’t do so alone. Robert Becker of the National Democratic Institute refused to abandon his Egyptian colleagues. And Sherif Mansour resigned his position at Freedom House to return to Egypt to face trial in person. He was immediately arrested upon his arrival.