Dec 21, 1:29 PM EST

Egypt human rights group to register under restrictive law

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CAIRO (AP) -- One of Egypt's most prominent human rights groups announced Sunday that it will register under a restrictive law it and other organizations have decried as an attempt by the government to silence them.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a leading group founded 12 years ago, said in a statement its board of trustees voted to register after a government ultimatum warned those who fail to register will face prosecution.

But the group said it will continue to fight the 2002 law which gives the state sweeping authority over their activities and financing.

EIPR monitors police abuse, provides legal counselling and documents violations in the country's complex criminal justice system. It also campaigns for policies that ensure economic and social justice. It said it will continue to carry out its work and test what freedoms the law allows.

"Our work was always extremely difficult. I don't expect it to be easier under the law," said Khaled Mansour, the group's executive director. "We decided to call the (government's) bluff."

Mansour said there are already various forms of pressures on civil groups, including revising the penal code to impose a life sentence against anyone who receives foreign funding with the aim of "hurting national security." Such vague phrasing could be used against such rights groups, who finance much of their work through foreign funds.

The government had asked non-governmental organizations to submit to the law by November or face prosecution. The ultimatum passed without a crackdown, but government officials said it still stands. They said nine foreign and eight local organizations had submitted applications before the ultimatum expired. Others have shut down altogether to avoid the crackdown.

Another local prominent rights group, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, chose to move some of its activities outside of Egypt.

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