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US 'deeply concerned' after Egypt raids NGO offices

The US said it was 'deeply concerned' after a series of raids by Egypt's ruling military today on nongovernment organizations promoting democracy and human rights, some US-funded. 

By Rebecca CollardContributor, Staff writer / December 29, 2011

Egyptian police raid a NGO office in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday. Egyptian soldiers and police stormed non-governmental organization offices throughout the country, banning employees inside from leaving while they interrogated them and searched through computer files.

Mohammed Asad/AP

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Cairo and Boston

series of armed sweeps of democracy, justice, and human rights organizations in Egypt today drew denunciations from the US and from a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch who called the actions "unprecedented."

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The US Embassy in Cairo wrote on its Twitter feed that it was "deeply concerned that Egyptian judicial and police officials raided the offices of a number of NGOs today." When an Egyptian on Twitter directed a comment to the Embassy that "SCAF receives $1.3 billion in annual military aid from [the] US but yet NGOs who 'might' be receiving foreign aid [are] stormed?" the embassy responded "good point."

SCAF is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the committee of senior military officers who have run the country since Hosni Mubarak was pushed from power in February by mass protests against his rule. Among the groups targeted today were Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute, democracy promotion organizations that received a substantial portion of their funding from the US government's National Endowment for Democracy.

The raids add to growing unease among Egyptian democracy activists about SCAF's true intentions. Though the council has insisted that it supports transition to democracy, with parliamentary elections scheduled to wrap up in the next few weeks and presidential elections promised by July, it has also shown a heavy hand at times.

Democracy activists have been given jail terms by military courts, protests against military rule have been violently disbursed, and public warnings that "foreign hands" are stirring up trouble have been frequently issued by representatives of the junta. Activists have frequently pointed out that while both military and civilian politicians frequently warn of not allowing "foreign interference" in internal Egyptian affairs, the military and government are themselves heavily reliant on foreign aid, most notably from the US. 

Raids 'unprecedented'

At least 10 NGOs were raided by Egyptian security forces this afternoon according to Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based Human Rights Watch researcher.

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