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Egypt freezes assets of anti-torture NGO

Central bank tells Nadeem Centre for torture victims its 'legal status' was in doubt and it was conducting 'activities other than those allowed'
Amnesty described the action as a 'cruel blow to human rights in the country' (AFP)

Egyptian authorities have frozen the assets of a prominent human rights group that works with torture victims, the head of the organisation said on Thursday.

The move came months after authorities tried on two separate occasions to shut down the El Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Violence.

"Today they informed us that the legal department at our bank had received a ruling from the Central Bank to freeze our account," the group's head Magda Adly told AFP.

She said the central bank linked its decision to the group's "legal status" and conforming with a repressive NGO law that dates back to the rule of president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.

London-based watchdog Amnesty International denounced the move, and urged authorities to revoke the decision against the centre, which provides psychological support for torture and violence victims and documents complaints of torture in detention.

"The Egyptian authorities' decision to arbitrarily freeze its bank account is a cruel blow to human rights in the country," said Amnesty's regional advocacy director Philip Luther.

"This is yet more evidence of the Egyptian authorities' chilling contempt of perceived critics," he added in a statement.

"The El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence is a lifeline for hundreds of victims of torture and for families of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance," Amnesty said.

It added that the centre "has operated as a registered clinic with the Ministry of Health and does not need to be registered under the law on associations".

In February and April, authorities issued orders to close the centre with the health ministry saying it was carrying out "activities other than those allowed" in line with its association permit.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of violations, including forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.

Egyptian and foreign NGOs operating in the country are governed by a stiff law which allows the government to supervise their activities and finances.

In September a court froze the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three NGOs, who had been under investigation for allegedly receiving foreign funds in a case dating from 2011.

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