CAIRO–Egypt on Saturday rejected US concerns over the recent cancellation of a human rights conference, a move that activists have called an example of Cairo's hostile attitude toward rights groups.
The conference, organized by Egypt's One World Foundation and scheduled for the last week of September, was expected to discuss limits on freedom of association in Egypt, and the Arab world more broadly, according to Washington-based Freedom House, which was to take part.
It was not clear why the gathering was canceled two days before it was slated to begin. But Freedom House said in a statement that Egyptian security officials called the event off, which the organization described as a brazen example of Egypt's "hostile behavior" toward rights groups.
The US voiced concern this week over the conference's cancellation, and State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley on Wednesday urged Egypt to reschedule it and allow non-governmental organizations to operate freely.
In a statement, Crowley also expressed concern over recent reports of activist arrests and the beating of demonstrators.
Egyptian Foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki rejected the US comments, saying they reflect "a lack of knowledge of the facts, and ignore the reality of the Egyptian position, which encourages civil society."
Zaki did not comment on the conference's cancellation.
Gamal Eid, a human rights campaigner, said the cancellation fits into a broader pattern of increasing government restrictions on civil society ahead of November parliamentary elections. He pointed to the recent detention of activists and the denial of entry of a Freedom House official last month.
"The pace of repression is picking up," Eid said.