Civil society organizations denounce raids on offices

Twenty-eight civil society organizations and NGOs accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of carrying out an "accountability operation" against the organizations and activists who exposed the abuses of the SCAF during the transitional period in an attempt to cover up the SCAF's major failures.

On Thursday, security forces and public prosecutors stormed the headquarters of 10 non-govermental organizations. Civil society organizations held a meeting on Friday at the headquarters of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and signed a joint statement denouncing the raids, claiming that violations were committed against activists during the military operation.

"There are various options open to us, including staging sit-ins or protests until civic activity in Egyptian society is allowed to proceed unhindered," said Hafez Abu Saada, the director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

The crackdown that took place on Thursday included the Arab Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory, the Freedom House, the Democratic Institute, and the American Republican Institute. The statement stressed that security forces inspected the headquarters of these organizations before sealing the doors with red wax.

"The move marks the beginning of a crackdown that is likely to affect dozens of legal institutions and is part of a broader campaign launched by the SCAF that attempts to discredit rights activists and others involved in the 25 January revolution," the statement added.

"This unprecedented campaign aims to cover up the SCAF's management failures during the transitional stage and to [tarnish] the political entities and rights activists who criticized the military junta and exposed the violations which took place under [its rule], as they succeeded in referring some cases of military violations to the judiciary," said the statement.

"State prosecution ordered the raids without making specific accusations against the organizations," said Ahmed Seif al-Islam, director of the Hisham Mubarak Center for Law, stressing that the organizations agreed during their meeting to form a legal committee to conduct investigations about violations of the military junta.

Meanwhile the US expressed "deep concern" about the incidents, calling on Egyptian authorities to immediately lift the restrictions imposed on NGOs.

"We are very worried because this behavior is not appropriate in the current climate,” said Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US State Department, on Thursday evening.

She added that US officials contacted senior military commanders to express concern about the raids.

"We hope for an immediate solution to this matter," added Nuland.

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