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Egypt ministry official accuses US Congress of 'illegal' NGO funding

In latest chapter of Egypt's NGO drama, official from International Cooperation Ministry reiterates charges that US Congress funded unlicensed civil-society groups

Ahram Online, Wednesday 4 Jul 2012
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An official at Egypt's International Cooperation Ministry has accused US Congress of breaking laws regulating the funding of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in Egypt. The official made the accusation while giving testimony at a Wednesday session of the ongoing trial in the politically-charged case of foreign NGO funding.

Ambassador Marwan Zaki, who has served as a senior assistant to Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul-Naga for ten years, claimed that US Congress had funded both foreign and Egyptian NGOs that had failed to register with Egyptian authorities.

According to regulations agreed upon by both Egypt and the US, Zaki explained, Egyptian NGOs must be registered with Egyptian authorities to be entitled to receive US funding. US organisations, meanwhile, must also be licensed with the authorities to enjoy the same privilege, while NGOs from counties other than Egypt and the US cannot qualify at all.

"But in 2005, the Egyptian side noticed that US Congress had funded Egyptian entities that do not meet these conditions, including unregistered Egyptian organisations and foreign, non-American NGOs," Zaki said.

In his testimony, Zaki also noted that congress had allocated $25 million in 2004 – and $150 million during last year's Tahrir Square uprising – to Egypt-based NGOs.

Zaki also asserted that Egyptian authorities had remained silent about what he described as "violations" of Egypt's foreign-funding policy so as not to threaten the military and economic aid Egypt has traditionally received from the US.

In February, 43 foreign NGO workers of different nationalities were accused of operating in Egypt and receiving US funds without the appropriate authorisation.

A Cairo criminal court has adjourned trial proceedings to 9 September.

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