Egyptians Protest Gov't Raid on Pro-Democracy NGOs
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party called for a demonstration Monday evening local time in front of the prosecutor general's office in Cairo to protest raids on the offices of a group of pro-democracy NGOs.
The raids, conducted last week by government forces, were also harshly condemned by the European Union and the United States.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed "great concern" Monday over last Thursday's sudden raid by members of Egypt's prosecution office, the police and military personnel at 17 offices belonging to a group of NGOs.
The offices of The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP), the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory and the three Egyptian branches of the Washington-based NGOs, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House, were all shut down, according to the Egyptian Al Ahram daily newspaper.
So were the offices of the German thinktank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, according to the British-based newspaper, The Guardian,. which claimed the organization has close ties to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat party. Egypt's ambassador was summoned by the German foreign ministry in Berlin to explain his government's actions.
The United Nations also condemned the action, describing it as "unnecessarily heavy-handed."
Speaking from Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called on the Egyptian government to "immediately end the harassment of NGOs, NGOs staff, return all property and resolve this issue immediately.” The International Republican Institute also released a statement, saying it was "dismayed and disappointed" by the actions of Egypt’s military rulers. The U.S.-funded group added that it had never been targeted under former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Euronews TV channel reported.
Both U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson called Armed Forces Supreme Council head Field Marshal Mahmoud Tantawi and other Egyptian officials over the issue.
Current Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abou El-Naga told reporters Sunday at a news conference she had launched a probe into civil society organisations by submitting an evaluation report to the Cabinet last July. Abou El-Naga, in office since 2001, noted that following the Tahrir Square Revolution the United States has underwritten some nongovernmental organisations in Egypt with funding to the tune of some $200 million, an amount she said she considered “too high.”
The minister added that some of the NGOs had begun operations from Cairo after the "January 25 Revolution" and had been operating without official authorization, thereby committing "grave violations of the Egyptian civil society law."