Egypt NGOs Offices Raided in Foreign Funds Probe

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

Egyptian police raided more than a dozen offices belonging to local and foreign rights groups on Thursday, as part of an investigation into alleged illicit foreign funding, an official statement said, drawing sharp criticism from Washington.

At least two U.S. rights groups -- the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) -- are being targeted by the operation, judicial sources said.

The raids, in which no arrests were reported, came as the authorities blamed foreign-funded groups for political unrest in the country after an uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Police special forces blocked the entrance to the NDI offices in a Cairo villa as men in plain clothes, some of them members of the prosecution service, carried out computers and boxes full of files, an Agence France Presse correspondent said.

Witnesses told AFP that police had also closed off the IRI's office and were confiscating its equipment.

The state prosecutor's office said in a statement that a team of investigators from the prosecution service was searching "17 headquarters of branches of Egyptian and foreign civil society groups."

They were carrying out an order from judges the justice ministry had tasked with investigating the groups' foreign funding, after obtaining "serious evidence of their engaging in illegal activities," the statement said.

The groups allegedly did not obtain licenses to operate or permission from the foreign and social solidarity ministries, the statement added.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is "deeply concerned" over the raids.

"This action is inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation we have had over many years," Nuland told reporters.

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

She said the U.S. ambassador in Cairo raised her concerns with the Egyptian prime minister, and the assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, raised the issue with the Egyptian ambassador to the U.S.

Civil society groups also condemned the unprecedented raids.

"Mubarak's regime did not dare to undertake such practices prior to the uprising," said the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in a statement.

It accused authorities of "aiming to intimidate activists and rights advocates, gag their mouths and freeze their activities in support of human rights and against repression and torture."

The probe, which began over the summer, coincided with Washington raising concerns with the ruling military about "anti-Americanism" in Egypt.

A cabinet source told AFP that the investigation was first launched in July by the ministry of international cooperation after the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, said the U.S. distributed $40 million to NGOs since Mubarak's ouster.

The initial probe came amid a spike in tensions between the military and activists who want a speedier transition to civilian rule.

The military has described the activists as foreign-funded, an accusation that resonated in a country where there is abundant suspicion of foreign plots.

The military enjoys close ties with Washington and receives more than $1 billion in U.S. aid annually, but it has blamed foreigners for plotting unrest and directing activists against the military.

Comments 1
Default-user-icon Murad (Guest) 30 December 2011, 01:14

The US is known to use NGOs as covers for their regime change agendas.