Egypt raids NGOs, slammed by West

Egypt raids NGOs, slammed by West

Egyptian security forces stormed the offices of 17 nongovernmental organizations, including three United States-based agencies, as part of a crackdown on foreign assistance that has drawn criticism from the West and several Egyptian rights groups.

Prosecutors, backed by police special forces, raided 17 offices of local and international NGOs Dec. 29, confiscating computers and documents as part of a probe into allegations of illegal funding from abroad. At least three U.S. groups – the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and Freedom House – were targeted in the operation. The military, which took control after a popular uprising toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February, has often accused the groups of promoting protests with the help of funds from abroad.

Several Egyptian rights groups accused the country’s ruling military council of using “repressive tools” of the deposed regime in waging an “unprecedented campaign” against pro-democracy organizations. “The military council is using Mubarak’s authoritarian and repressive tools ... in an even more dangerous and uglier way,” the statement read.

An official with the Justice Ministry’s inspection teams said computers and cash were confiscated during the raids. He said an earlier investigation revealed these groups had received up to $100 million from abroad then deposited the money in different Egyptian banks using names of illiterate Egyptians for the fake accounts.

Germany summons Egyptian ambassador

The German government summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Berlin Friday over the “unacceptable” raid by Cairo police of a German political foundation, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Spokesman Andreas Peschke said Berlin was troubled by the searches targeting the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has close ties to Angela Merkel’s conservative party, and other local and foreign rights groups.

“The Egyptian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry this morning,” Peschke told a regular government news briefing. “Our deep concern in light of yesterday’s search of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation was conveyed to him in the clearest terms. He was told that in our view it is unacceptable for the foundation’s work to be hindered in this way.”

Peschke said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expected the authorities in Cairo to allow the foundation to resume its work “immediately.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington was “deeply concerned” over the raids. “This action is inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation we have had over many years,” Nuland told reporters in Washington. “We call on the Egyptian government to immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property and resolve this issue immediately,” she said. The U.N. Human Rights office says Egypt’s ruling military council has gone too far by using “unnecessarily heavy-handed measures” to put down groups promoting democracy and human rights.