Bahey El-Din Hassan (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt government inspectors searched the offices of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) on Tuesday, two weeks after its director criticised authorities before the European Parliament, the institute has said.
In a statement published on its website on Wednesday, the group said the Ministry of Social Solidarity sent inspectors to its office to investigate whether it has been operating as a registered civil society group as required by an Egyptian law issued under former president Hosni Mubarak in 2002.
It added that inspectors showed institute officers an original copy of the judge's search warrant, but refused to give them a duplicate.
The institute says the government's actions amounts to an act of "revenge" against it for a report on human rights violations in the country that its director, Bahey Eldin Hassan, delivered before the European Parliament's human rights committee last month.
In its report, CIHRS criticised recent court rulings, saying Egyptian judges are influenced by the country's security apparatus. It also condemned what it described as a "media campaign" and "security threats" against human rights groups.
"Egypt has become a republic of fear where current authorities control the political process without accountability or supervision," Hassan told the European Parliament.
Hassan, a prominent lawyer and the founder of the CIHRS, had recently left the country after he reported receiving several deaths threats for his stances on human rights in Egypt.
Many rights campaigners say authorities are tightening their grip on the operation of human rights organisations, and are clamping down on political dissent.
In December 2014, the CIHRS relocated its regional activities to Tunisia and transferred other international activities abroad because of what it said at the time was the state's "declared war" on civil society groups.
Last week, Mohammed Lotfy of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) had his passport confiscated at Cairo airport, and was banned from travelling to Germany, where he had been due to speak about Egypt's human rights' record before the German parliament, just hours before President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi visited the country.
Wednesday's statement, signed by 21 other local rights groups, said the crackdown on rights groups is "politically motivated."
The signatories include the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and El Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of victims of violence.