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Egyptian court order probe of country's leading rights group

Published:Thursday | June 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

CAIRO (AP):

An Egyptian judge has ordered an investigation into a leading human rights group in Egypt, days after its director spoke before a committee of the European Parliament, the group said yesterday.

A manager at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that investigators from the Ministry of Social Solidarity visited its offices Tuesday to look into the legality of its activities, showing them only a photocopy of a warrant and not leaving them with any document.

The group says the move is in retaliation for the May 28 speech its director, Bahey Eldin Hassan, gave to the parliament's Human Rights Committee, where he criticised human rights abuses in Egypt.

"This is proof that the government is not accepting human rights activity and aims to stifle the movement," Egypt Program Manager Mohammed Zaree said by telephone. "It's not about foreign funding, it's not about legal status. It's about the activity.

"They are showing zero tolerance for any sort of criticism," he said, adding that the investigators wanted to see all the group's files and documentation but that the office refused, given that an original warrant was not shown.

Rights groups and activists allege widespread abuses since the ouster of Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013, and say torture is being used to punish detainees or extract confessions.

In a letter co-signed by 21 other rights groups, the institute said that a crackdown on human rights organisations is politically motivated.