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Cablegate: Closed Labor Ngo Re-Opens

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1527 1991459
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171459Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9875
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS CAIRO 001527

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA AND DRL/IL, NSC FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM KDEM EG
SUBJECT: CLOSED LABOR NGO RE-OPENS

REF: 2007 CAIRO 1283

1. (SBU) After a year-long legal battle, the Center for Trade
Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), a labor rights group, has
re-opened. The group's offices were closed by State Security
officers in April 2007, after the Ministry of Social
Solidarity accused the organization of inciting nationwide
labor unrest and of failing to register as a non-governmental
association (reftel). At the time, CTUWS was registered as a
"civil company," as its previous attempts to register as an
NGO had been unsuccessful. Labor activists told us they
believed CTUWS was closed down as punishment for its role in
advising striking workers of their legal rights and previous
GOE promises regarding pay and bonuses, and for its efforts
to expose widespread irregularities in the 2006 labor union
elections. The Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hady and the
head of the government-controlled Egyptian Trade Union
Federation both stated publicly at the time that CTUWS was
responsible for inciting labor unrest (reftel). Subsequent
to the closure of CTUWS offices, the group's general
coordinator, Kamal Abbas, was sentenced to one year in prison
after being found liable in a libel lawsuit. The jail
sentence was suspended while Abbas fought it, and the
decision against him was ultimately annulled in February 2008.

2. (SBU) On March 30, the Cairo Administrative Court ruled
that there was no reason that CTUWS should not be registered
as an NGO. In accordance with the court's decision, on June
25, the Ministry of Social Solidarity registered CTUWS as a
"non-governmental services association." On July 12, CTUWS
held a re-opening party at its Cairo headquarters (it also
plans to re-open offices in other cities, including the Nile
Delta mill-town of Mahalla al Kubra, which has witnessed
repeated strikes and unrest over the past year). The event
was attended by Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hady and
Minister of Social Solidarity Aly Moselhi. According to
attendees, in response to questions, Abdel Hady commented
that the problems CTUWS had faced were the fault of the
Ministry of Social Solidarity, to which Moselhi replied that
he was "only applying Egyptian law," and that, "the influence
of the security services on such decisions cannot be ignored
.... the security services present reports that we must act
on."

3. (SBU) Comment: It is not clear whether the end to CTUWS'
legal woes was a calculated decision by the GOE indicating
lessened concern about workers strikes (which, after a
slowdown in April and May, appear to be picking up again), or
simply was a victory engineered by independent judges.
Either way, CTUWS is now working legally as an NGO.
SCOBEY

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