Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Cairo court bans Hamas activities in Egypt

On Tuesday a Cairo court placed a temporary ban on Palestinian political party and elected government Hamas from carrying out any activities in Egypt, and ordered the confiscation of its offices.

The court action followed a complaint filed by an Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabry, asking it to declare Hamas a terrorist organisation.

Hamas officials strongly condemned the decision as politically motivated.

“Hamas has neither activities nor official offices in Egypt, whether before, during or after the [2011 revolution],” a Hamas official said in a statement e-mailed to Ahram Online, an Egyptian news service.

“The decision targets the Palestinian people … and is consistent with goals to fight and eliminate the Palestinian resistance, against which Hamas is a bulwark,” the official added.

While the ruling is subject to appeal and to the final judgment of ousted President Morsi’s trial on charges of collaboration with the group to carry out ‘hostile acts’ in Egypt, it has caused considerable alarm throughout Gaza, already reeling under the effects of a seven-year Israeli siege further exacerbated by Egypt’s closure of both the Rafah crossing, and the tunnel lifelines.

“This decision will make the Palestinian people pay the price as it will be used to tighten the blockade on the Gaza strip,” senior Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told the media.

Hamas said it has been the subject of an “unprecedented media and political campaign of incitement and defamation” in Egypt, and maintains the allegations against it are completely unfounded and unjustified.

After its weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Palestinian Government in Gaza announced it is considering the seriousness of the court decision, and called on officials in Egypt to review the ruling, as it is tantamount to Egypt abandoning its historic role in support of the Palestinian people.

The Egyptian court might also pause to consider the implications of its Hamas ban for its international obligations, such as to Articles 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

Hamas is a legitimate political party that democratically came to power in Palestine in 2006 through a fair, free and open electoral process endorsed as such by national and international observers. Its members and leaders have the right to hold and express their beliefs in any country signatory to the ICCPR.

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