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US 'deeply concerned' after Egypt raids NGO offices

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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.

“This is completely unprecedented,” says Ms. Morayef, explaining that while rights organizations were sporadically targeted during Mubarak's rule, there was never such a large-scale operation against NGOs. She confirmed 10 organizations raided today, while a press release from the Ministry of Justice identified 17 organizations.

Security forces entered the NGOs' offices, prevented employees from leaving, and searched the premises. Among those searched were a number of Egyptian NGOs, including the Arab Center for Independence of Justice and Legal Professions and the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory. Both were ordered closed and their doors sealed by security forces, according to Morayef.

The Cairo office of International Republican Institute (IRI) quickly released a statement confirming the raid and its operation and said “it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action. Today’s raid is confusing given that IRI was officially invited by the Government of Egypt.” Both IRI and NDI were ordered closed for about a year in 2006, though that was handled through bureaucratic and diplomatic channels, not with armed security agents poring over their records.

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