Egypt forces storm NGO’s; court acquits police

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In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victgoria Nuland said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the raids. “This action is inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation we have had over many years,” she said, adding that the U.S. government is in touch with Egyptian officials.

This month, Justice Minister Adel Abdel-Hamid accused around 300 non-governmental organizations of receiving unauthorized foreign funding and using the money for protests.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, told The Associated Press that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is trying to attack groups that have criticized the military’s human rights records.

“I believe SCAF is trying to find some scapegoat (for their human rights record),” she said. “Targeting civil society was a technique used by Mubarak, so it really is reminiscent of the worst tactics of the Mubarak era.”

The raids and the acquittal of the police were certain to usher in a new low in relations between the ruling generals who took over from Mubarak and rights groups and activists who engineered the uprising that ousted him.

In August, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, gave a speech in Washington, where he criticized the United States for funding pro-democracy groups without submitting to Egyptian government supervision. He said it violated Egyptian laws and called it “a matter of sovereignty.”

Three U.S.-based organizations — IRI, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, were among those searched Thursday.

In Washington, the IRI issued a statement noting, “it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era, IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action.” The group said it does not provide funding to political parties or groups in Egypt.

An official with the Egyptian Attorney General’s office said at least one of the U.S.-based organizations being searched was operating without proper permits. He did not say which one.

The head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Gamal Eid, said an employee trapped inside one of the local NGO’s called him to say security forces were removing laptop computers and documents.

Eid told the AP the troops and police banned anyone from entering or speaking with employees at the offices as they interrogated them.

Also, security forces raided the apartment of Ahmed Ali al-Salkawy, 29, a member of a group that played a key role in the anti-Mubarak uprising. A security official said police found documents deemed hostile to the nation.

“This is the old regime still in place and military rulers defending that regime,” Ahmed Maher, founder of one of the reform movements, told the AP. “Many generals have vested interests in the old regime.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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