CAIRO: An investigating judge started Tuesday interrogating members of local NGOs in the foreign funding probe. Researcher at the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory (BHRO) Ahmed El-Salakawy was the first to stand before the judge at the Ministry of Justice.
"El-Salakawy was interrogated for two hours about the nature of his work, his salary, the management of the observatory and its structure," Executive Director of BHRO Helmy El-Rawy told Daily News Egypt.
"He was also asked about the validity of the Homeland Security’s investigation records of the Observatory receiving illegal foreign funding," he added.
El-Rawy said the researcher was accused of working in an unlicensed organization and receiving illegal foreign funding.
El-Salakawy signed a pledge to appear before the judge again for further interrogation if summoned.
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 on Dec. 29.
Security forces confiscated equipment and documents and closed down some of the offices under allegations of receiving illegal foreign funding.
The raids triggered threats by the US to halt the $1.3 million in military aid it grants Egypt annually, said reports.
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.
Members of some of the foreign NGOs have already been questioned in relation to a recent raid for alleged “illicit finding.”
"Two staff members were interrogated a week before the raids, and we were very cooperative. I do not know why they raided our offices," Country Director of NDI Julie Hughes previously told DNE.
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 read, without referring to the investigations taking place.
"We have been working without a license, but at the same time we did not have an office or a location," a Freedom House employee, who wished to remain anonymous, previously told DNE.
"However, after Jan. 25, we attempted to apply for a license at the foreign ministry and they actually asked us to open up an office and file the proper paperwork in order to do so."
He stressed that the organization was told that they must open the office before they could apply for a license.
"We followed the procedure, opened an office and filed the proper documents with the foreign ministry; they replied with an official letter stating that they received our paperwork and they would respond to our request within 60 days," he added.
Fayza Aboul Naga, Egypt’s minister of international cooperation and planning, pointed out at a press conference earlier that after the January 25 uprising many of the organizations under inspection "suddenly" began to open up offices all over Cairo "behind the government’s back."
“Our ministry is responsible for monitoring such cases," she said. “The organizations in question are not operating within the permitted fields and some are operating without the proper licensing from the foreign ministry.”