Saturday, December 31, 2011
Egypt reassures US that it will stop raids on NGOs
Egypt has reassured the US that it will stop raids on the offices of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the US state department says.Officials said property seized in the raids would be returned to the groups, which include two based in the US.Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has spoken to Egypt's military ruler by phone to discuss the issue, they added.
Egypt raided the offices of 17 NGOs in Cairo on Thursday, after expressing concern over foreign funding.The country's ruling military council has said repeatedly it will not tolerate foreign interference in the country's affairs. But the US reacted sharply to the move, condemning it as an attack on democratic values and hinting that it could review the $1.3bn (£0.84bn) in annual US military aid to Cairo if such incidents continued.
In a press conference held at the premises of Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) on Thursday, 27 human rights organisations denounced the raids, which were carried out on Thursday morning by officials from Egypt’s public prosecution office, with back-up from police and military personnel.
The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP); the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory; and the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House were among the NGOs that the government raided.
Head of Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Ahmed Saif Al-Islam, said that Egyptian NGOs are now exposed to attacks unprecedented in their magnitude at the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).Saif Al-Islam pointed out that restrictions on public freedoms had been felt since the closure of Cairo’s Al-Jazeera Network office in September, along with the renewal of emergency law in the same month. Under the auspices of emergency law, freedom of expression is severely curtailed, and journalists and TV interviewers risk facing questioning or even prosecution.
Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, challenged state authorities by affirming that the center will continue with its work despite the closure.
‘Even if we are jailed, we will work from inside the jail,’ Amin declared.
Hafez Abu Saeda, head of EOHR, described the crackdown as “illegitimate” and expressed willingness to battle the raids through the courts.At the press conference, Abu Saeda welcomed any of the 17 closed NGOs to use the EOHR premises to resume their work.