Ghanem’s story was one of many shared Wednesday at the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa hearing about the guilty verdicts returned for 43 non-governmental organization employees and volunteers in Egyptian court. They were charged with operating without a license and receiving unauthorized foreign funds.
The NGO leaders said they all work to promote democracy and believe that work is the real reason for the trials.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s court convicted members of four NGOs last week,turning those left behind into prisoners and those who fled into fugitives. A number of the convicted NGO employees are Americans,and some House members view the verdict as a political attack on the U.S.
Ghanem’s story was told by his colleague,Joyce Barnathan,president of the International Center for Journalists.
“He got a two-year sentence and cannot return home to his wife and three children,and the country he loves without going to prison,” Barnathan said.
While Barnathan and the other witnesses presented emotional rhetoric,Charles W. Dunne,director of Middle East and North Africa Programs for Freedom House,and a defendant in the case,was the only witness to take a stance on American aid to Egypt.
He presented a three-step plan to remedy the NGO problem,which includes suspending U.S. aide to Egypt. After Israel,Egypt gets the most U.S. foreign aid.
“The United States should take three clear steps. First,it should reconsider delivery of aid to the Egyptian government until the slate is wiped clean for all of the 43 NGO workers,” Dunne said.
Dunne also suggested the U.S. government review its relationship with Egypt and become more vocal regarding civic and political rights in the area.
Members of the committee raised questions about how to respond to Egypt.
“If you go down the road of pardon,you’re conceding the basis of the conviction,” he said.
In an interview after the hearing,Dunne,an American,said the lives of his Egyptian volunteers are his main concern. “What really worries me is our Egyptian employees whose careers have been disrupted. Their families have been disrupted,” he said.
Ghanem’s family has been disrupted,yet he disagreed with Dunne,and said he hopes the United States continues military and economic aid to Egypt.
“If suspending the aid means a pardon for me,with all the consequences on Egypt and the Egyptians,I would much rather be a fugitive and convict,” he said in an interview.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Yehia Ghanem’s name.
Reach Caleigh Bourgeois at [email protected] or 202-3269866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFwire.