February 21, 2016 / 10:03 PM / 3 years ago

Egyptian rights group asks court to halt official move to shut it down

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian organization that documents rights abuses and treats torture victims said on Sunday it had filed an urgent application to a court in the hope of halting plans by authorities to shut it down on Monday.

Protesters gather in front of the Cairo security directorate in Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The director of the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture told a news conference that a health ministry decision to shut it down was part of the toughest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history.

“This is a political decision,” said Aida Seif el-Dawla. “And it’s coming from the cabinet that represents all the actors that are keen on the survival of this regime, despite the oppression and the torture that the Egyptian people are living through on a daily basis.”

Sources in the Health Ministry, which issues licenses for the Nadeem Center, have said it committed unspecified violations.

Staff of the organization said on Sunday its complaint to the administrative court argued that it should have been informed of any violations of regulations and given time to rectify them.

The center would continue to operate, said staff member Suzan Fayad, despite the closure order, which the authorities plan to implement on Monday.

Human rights groups accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government of widespread abuses, allegations it denies.

As armed forces chief, Sisi toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Security forces killed hundreds of Mursi supporters in the streets and arrested thousands of others.

Secular activists were later rounded up. Non-governmental organizations have also been closed under what government critics say is a rollback of political freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that ended 30 years of rule under President Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian authorities deny allegations by human rights groups and activists that security forces round up people and detain them in secret detention centers where they are tortured.

Egypt’s human rights record has come under fresh scrutiny since Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, 28, was found dead on the outskirts of Cairo this month. His body showed signs of torture.

The government has denied media reports that he was arrested by security forces before his death.

Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Andrew Roche

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