Egypt Rights Groups Denounce ‘Unprecedented’ Raids on NGO Offices

Posted December 30th, 2011 at 8:15 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A group of Egyptian human rights organizations has accused the country's ruling military council of attempting to “take revenge” against pro-democracy groups by raiding their offices.

Egyptian security forces stormed 17 offices of human rights groups Thursday as part of an investigation military rulers say will reveal how foreign funding has fomented the country's ongoing unrest.

But a statement signed Friday by 28 Egyptian civil society groups said the raids were part of a wider campaign to discredit activists who criticize the country's interim military rulers.

The group called the raids “unprecedented,” saying that not even under former president Hosni Mubarak's repressive government did such raids occur.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the police action, calling it “inconsistent” with long-standing U.S.-Egypt cooperation.

“We call on the Egyptian government to immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property and resolve this issue.”

Nuland said U.S. officials have contacted Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri and Egypt's Washington envoy to relay their concerns.

Among the groups targeted were the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute – both of which are funded by the U.S. government. The offices of the U.S.-based Freedom House were also raided, along with Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation and at least two Egyptian non-governmental organizations.

Heavily armed men searched offices in Cairo and at least two other cities, confiscating computers, documents, cell phones and funds while holding staff members incommunicado.

Egypt's state-run news agency said the raids were directed by the Justice Ministry as part of a wider investigation into “illegal foreign funding” of the organizations as well as other “crimes,” including operating without permits.

Egypt's interim government and military rulers have criticized U.S. funding of non-governmental organizations, saying such assistance must have official approval.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Abdel Abdel-Hamid accused around 300 nonprofit groups of receiving unauthorized foreign funding and using the money to support anti-government protests.

Egypt is currently investigating foreign financing for such groups operating in the country. Prosecutors have described the practice as treason.