cairo, egypt, city view.jpg
Photograph: Photo by cg2, used under CC0

An Egyptian court upheld an order to freeze assets of five leading human rights campaigners on Saturday in a case related to claims of accepting foreign funds without government authorization.

The Cairo Criminal Court confirmed earlier asset freezes issued by investigative judges against the five, the state Middle East News Agency reported.

Those affected by the freezes include Gamal Eid, the head of the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information and a vocal critic of the government of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.

Similar freezes were kept against three Egyptian rights groups, private news website al-Shorouk reported.

The court did not uphold asset freezes against family members of the defendants.

The rulings can be appealed.

"We are proud to be against such an autocratic regime and we will keep working," Eid said in a tweet.

A second prominent activist affected by the freeze is Hossam Bahgat, the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) that accused state authorities of cracking down on civil society groups.

“The EIPR calls on political forces and popular movements that believe in the values of freedom and social justice to stand in solidarity with the Egyptian human rights movement and make every effort to ensure the movement can continue to play its vital role,” the group said in an English statement.

Civil rights in Egypt have been increasingly restricted since 2013, when al-Sissi, then army chief, deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi following massive protests against the latter's rule.

Amnesty International condemned the court's decision.

"The Egyptian authorities are using this case as a way to crush the country's human rights movement," said Philip Luther, the watchdog's Middle East and North African director.

"The government's brutal crackdown on dissent shows no sign of stopping, with enforced disappearances and torture becoming a matter of state policy," Luther said in a statement.

"Egypt needs these critical voices more than ever," he added.

The London-based group said that the five activists could face prosecution and sentences as severe as life in prison, which is equivalent to 25 years in Egypt.

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