WASHINGTON: The United States expressed deep concern on Thursday after Egyptian police raided 17 offices of pro-democracy and human rights groups, including several funded by the United States, and urged Egyptian authorities to immediately halt "harassment" of non-governmental organization staff.
"We are very concerned because this is not appropriate in the current environment," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding that senior US officials had been in touch with Egyptian military leaders to express their concern over the raid.
"We are looking for this issue to be resolved immediately," Nuland said.
The US-funded International Republican Institute (IRI), which was monitoring elections in Egypt, on Thursday sharply criticized the security raid on its Cairo offices.
"IRI is dismayed and disappointed by these actions," the Washington-based group said, adding it was all the more surprised it had happened following the popular revolution that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February.
"IRI has been working with Egyptians since 2005; it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action," it said.
It said the raid is "confusing" because the government backed by military rulers tasked with steering the country toward democracy had officially asked the group to witness the parliamentary elections.
Having deployed monitors for the first two phases of elections, it said, the IRI was in the process of deploying a high-level international delegation to observe the third phase on Jan. 3 and 4.
"IRI has worked with Egyptian political parties and civil society to share technical skills and provide information about democratic participation," the non-profit, non-partisan organization said.
"IRI does not provide monetary or material support to political parties or civil society groups in Egypt," it said.
Nuland said the US ambassador to Egypt and the top US diplomat for the Middle East have spoken to Egyptian officials about the situation and "made very clear that this issue needs immediate attention."
German officials have also complained to the Egyptian ambassador over what they describe as an unacceptable raid on the Cairo office of the German think-tank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has links to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said Egypt’s ambassador in Berlin was summoned to the ministry on Friday.
Peschke said he was told that it was "unacceptable for the work of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Egypt to be hindered in this way" and that Berlin believes authorities’ actions go against the spirit of a German-Egyptian agreement in August on a partnership to support building Egyptian democracy.