CAIRO: Prosecutors and security forces raided Thursday five Egyptian and foreign non-profit organizations (NOG), confiscating equipment and documents, closing down one of them under allegations of receiving illegal foreign funding.
The official news agency MENA said the offices of 17 NGOs were raided but only five could be confirmed by press time: the Egyptian Arab Center for the Independence of Judiciary (ACIJ) and Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), the foreign International Republican Institution (IRI), National Democratic Institution (NDI) and Freedom House.
"A force of police and a prosecutor raided the center and the only employee who attended today was held inside before the whole center was shut down," Executive Director of BHRO Helmy El-Rawy told Daily News Egypt Thursday.
"The employee [Ahmed Aly] was held inside for a couple of hours and his mobile phone was switched off," El-Rawy said, adding that the center was notified only Wednesday that they are summoned to stand before an investigations judge at the Ministry of Justice on Jan. 1.
Aly, a researcher at BHRO, was arrested and taken to the Giza prosecution office. The charges he was held for were not clear by press time.
"We could not identify the reason why we will be summoned for investigation," El-Rawy said.
Head of ACIJ and member of the National Council of Human Rights Nasser Amin recounted a similar story.
"Commandos and members of the general prosecution told us they have orders to shut down the center as they confiscated many documents and equipment," Amin said, adding that the center was sealed and closed down after the raid.
"We were never notified about any investigation concerning us or any allegations of receiving foreign funding," Amin told DNE.
Minister of Justice Adel Abdel Hameed said in a press conference earlier this month that investigations into illegal foreign funding were based on the results of a probe conducted by a fact-finding committee affiliated to the Ministry of Justice.
"The probe examined the legality of the work of 300 NGOs and the direct foreign funding they received from foreign countries and organizations," the minister said.
"The investigations revealed that a number of Egyptian and foreign organizations received foreign funding and worked illegally inside Egypt. Investigations are ongoing as other state monitoring institutions are compiling reports about these organizations," he added.
NDI Country Director Julie Hughes could hardly speak to DNE as security forces were confiscating documents and equipment from the institution Thursday afternoon.
"We were never notified of any investigations against us. I asked the police forces and prosecutors about the reasons for the raid, but I received no answer," Hughes told DNE.
Rights groups slammed the targeting of civil society organizations, describing the campaign against them as a return to the practices of the ousted regime.
"A security campaign has started today against civil society organizations, especially rights organizations to terrify rights activists, silence them and stop their activities against oppression and injustice," the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a statement released Thursday.
"Even Mubarak’s regime did not dare to launch such campaigns [raiding the headquarters of NGOs] against civil society organizations. This is an organized crusade … that has been under preparation for a very long time, especially in the media," the statement added.
ANHRI said that the aim of this campaign is to silence the voices exposing the continued human rights infringements taking place until today.