Several Egyptian rights groups on Friday accused the country’s ruling military council of using Hosni Mubarak-era “repressive tools” in waging an “unprecedented campaign” against pro-democracy organizations.
The groups’ joint statement came just hours after security forces stormed offices of 10 rights organizations, including several based in the United States. The Interior Ministry said the raids were part of the investigation into foreign funding of rights groups.
Friday’s statement, signed by 28 Egyptian rights groups, said the attacks herald a wider clampdown to target those who led the uprising and were an attempt to “liquidate” the revolution.
“The military council is using Mubarak’s authoritarian and repressive tolls ... in an even more dangerous and uglier way,” the statement read. The raids “are an unprecedented campaign aimed at covering up big failures of the military council in managing the transition period.”
The groups also said the ruling military was trying to “liquidate or take revenge on the political and rights groups that played a significant role in preparing for the revolution, getting involved or shaping the vision to build a new system on the ruins of Mubarak’s regime.”
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.
Also Thursday, police arrested and stormed the home of a member of the April 6 group, a youth movement at the helm of the anti-Mubarak protests. A security official said hashish and about $4,000 were found at Ahmed el-Salkawi’s house.
April 6 was among the groups the military had accused of receiving foreign funds and using the money to promote for a “foreign agenda.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Egypt’s youth activists perceive the ruling generals as an extension of Mubarak’s regime, and have rallied in protests that turned deadly, demanding they immediately transfer power to a civilian government.
Among the offices which were raided the U.S.-headquartered National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, which is observing Egypt's ongoing parliamentary elections, as well as Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think-tank with links to Chancellor Angela Merkel's party.
Germany’s Development Aid Minister, Dirk Niebel said Friday that “political foundations’ possibilities to work abroad are the barometer of freedom for us.”
“So I call on Egyptian authorities immediately to ensure the foundations’ unhindered work and clear up completely what happened,” he added in a statement.
The Obama administration demanded Egyptian authorities immediately halt the raids on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying they are “inconsistent” with long-standing U.S-Egypt cooperation.
The U.S. State Department called on the Egyptian government “to immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property and resolve this issue.” Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. ambassador to Egypt and the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East have spoken to Egyptian officials about the situation and “made very clear that this issue needs immediate attention.”
The raids on the NGOs were the first since Mubarak’s ouster. Justice Minister Adel Abdel-Hamid has accused around 300 nonprofit groups of receiving unauthorized foreign funding and using the money to encourage protesters.
Germany summons Egyptian envoy
The German government summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Berlin Friday over the “unacceptable” raid by Cairo police of a German political foundation, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The spokesman, Andreas Peschke, said Berlin was troubled by the searches Thursday 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 and reported by AFP.
“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 added that Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expected the authorities in Cairo to allow the foundation to resume its work “immediately”.
He said the raid was a clear violation of a joint German-Egyptian government accord signed in August for a “transformation partnership” to promote the development of democracy and civil society in Egypt and urged Cairo to stay on the path of modernization and respect for human rights.
Peschke added that Germany intended to keep providing financial support for democratic reforms in Egypt but “would re-examine this if progress is not made”.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation condemned the search as well, calling it “completely incomprehensible” in a statement.