Egypt's highest appeals court has set a verdict date of April 5 for the so-called "foreign funding" case involving international non-governmental organizations accused of stoking unrest during the country's 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

The Thursday decision by the Court of Cassation in Cairo affects 16 defendants who were detained shortly after the uprising during police raids of their organizations and given suspended prison terms in 2013 for operating without proper licensing. They were among 43 people, including Americans and other foreigners, initially held, although most fled the country and were sentenced in absentia.

If the appeal is accepted, the case will be retried in a criminal court.

The case was expanded in 2016 when authorities also charged a string of leading rights activists, freezing their assets and banning them from travel.