Interrogation of members of raided local NGOs yet to start

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CAIRO: While members of some of the foreign NGOs have already been questioned in relation to a recent raid for alleged “illicit finding”, interrogations have yet to begin with local NGOs.

"Two staff members were interrogated a week before the raids, and we were very cooperative. I do not know why then they raided our offices," Country Director of the National Democratic Institute Julie Hughes told Daily News Egypt Thursday.

Hughes confirmed that three more staff members were questioned by the judiciary after the raids, but declined to mention whether the interrogation included questions regarding sources of funding or licensing.

German think tank Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), which is associated with Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Party, said in an official statement that their offices have been reopened.

"The office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Egypt has been reopened through a judicial order. All confiscated office equipment will be restituted. The restoration of full working capacity will take some days," the statement said, without referring to the investigations taking place.

“The interrogations have started with a number of NGOs, mainly the foreign ones. As for the local NGOs, none of their members were interrogated yet,” Helmy El Rawy, Executive Director of Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), one of the NGOs raided on Dec. 29, told DNE Wednesday.

The offices of BHRO and 17 other offices of 10 NGOs, including the Egyptian Arab Center for the Independence of Judiciary (ACIJ), the US International Republican Institution (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House, were raided last Thursday, Dec. 29. Security forces confiscated equipment and documents and closed down some of them under allegations of receiving illegal foreign funding.

The raids triggered threats to halt the US’ $1.3 million in military aid to Egypt, said reports.

A secretary from the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI) was summoned for interrogation by the prosecution, but the details of the case remain unknown, ANHRI’s Executive Director Gamal Eid told DNE Thursday.

"The secretary was just hired two months ago, and was afraid because she belongs to a very conservative family who recommended not to disclose her identity," Eid said.

"When our lawyers attended the interrogation, prosecutors told them the interrogation is postponed because the investigations judge is busy, and that they will contact them [ANHRI] when it resumes," Eid continued, adding that the summons only included the case number, without disclosing the reasons for the summoning or even the nature of the interrogation.

Minister of Justice Adel Abdel Hamid 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. -Additional reporting by Safaa Abdoun.

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