RB: Well, I've never had any problem on the street. I get a lot of praise for staying. I didn't do this for pay. I don't do a lot of interviews and stuff like that. I get a lot of credit for respecting the system and sticking with my guts. The street has quieted down about it. There hasn't been a lot of chatter. I'm happy to talk to any Egyptian. Like I said, we were very transparent about what we did. I run into people quite often who came into classes that we taught and now have nothing but good things to say about what they learned.
I'm charged with managing an illegal NGO and illegally receiving foreign funds. I didn't do either one.
FP: Have there been any threats against you? When you were leaving court the other day, there were people yelling at you, saying that you should be exchanged for Egyptians imprisoned in the U.S.
RB: They wanted to trade me for the Blind Sheikh [Omar Abdel Rahman]. But that's not going to happen.
FP: And who protected you?
RB: It was actually a couple of members of the Al-Nour Party, people who had come to several of the trainings I had run. When I came out of the cage the first time they were right there and walked me out. We don't agree on much politically but we respect each other. I gave them the same level of teaching and expertise I would give to any other party. I think it's just a respect thing.
FP: How does this issue affect the future of NGOs in Egypt?
RB: There are a lot of things that are priorities in this country: jobs, combating poverty, better education, security. Transitions are difficult, they take time. You can't pass every new law you need at once. NGOs, whether they be those that teach democracy or deal with human rights, or those that work at the local level to combat illiteracy or improve healthcare conditions, play a vital role. You don't have to be a big, international group. Almost every time you read a report coming out of Syria about civilian casualties, those reports are usually coming from foreign NGOs that are there right in the middle of the combat, running hospitals and clinics, on the frontlines. It's not the Syrian government that was reporting that 52 civilians were killed yesterday, it was a European NGO. I think this does hurt the future of non-government organizations. In a vibrant society you need NGOs to advocate for the people. If Egypt is going to move forward, it's going to take time, but you're going to need those citizen groups, whether their funding is foreign or local.