Egyptian government officials promised the US ambassador in Cairo that material seized in last week’s raids on non-governmental organizations, including US democracy-building groups, would be returned. That hasn’t happened:
Egyptian officials still have not returned property or cash seized in a December 29 police raid on the Cairo offices of U.S. non-governmental organizations, according to two U.S.-based NGOs.
The actions by the Egyptian police contradict assurances the State Department says were given to the U.S. ambassador by Egyptian authorities.
“We had been assured by leaders in the Egyptian government that this issue would be resolved, that harassment would end, that NGOs would be allowed to go back to business as usual and that their property would be returned. It is, frankly, unacceptable to us that that situation has not been returned to normal,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in her daily press briefing Tuesday.
Leslie Campbell, director of the National Democratic Institute’s programs in the Middle East and North Africa, told CNN there has been “no change at all – nothing returned.”
Campbell says there have been “mixed signals” from the Egyptian government about whether the group’s offices can be used, “but we are being cautious until there is a definitive statement from the government.”
Another U.S. NGO targeted in the raids, the International Republican Institute, told CNN that promises to the U.S. ambassador that the offices would be re-opened and possessions returned have not been kept.
Speaking by phone from Cairo, IRI President Lorne Craner said his group was promised on Friday that their material would be returned, but that hasn’t happened.
“The agreement that we understood to have been made last Friday has not been undertaken and, in fact, we’re being told there will be an investigation of us,” he said. “Today (Wednesday) we had an Egyptian citizen and a U.S. citizen from our staff called in by the police, by the prosecutors, for questioning.”
As I argued Thursday, it’s asking for trouble to allow this to stand without some tangible affect on the $1.3 billion in military aid the US sends to Egypt annually. Elliot Abrams puts it more starkly: “[W]e must let the army know that if it is their policy to crush democracy activists, there is a price they will pay. It’s $1.3 billion a year.”
Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf, who sits on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, is pressing the administration of this issue.