Egypt’s military rulers retreat on NGO crackdown after US intervention: reports

Sherif Tarek , Saturday 31 Dec 2011

Field Marshal Tantawi has reportedly told US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that NGOs recently raided would be allowed to operate as before

Hussein Tantawi
Field Marshal and de-facto president Hussein Tantawi (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s military rulers have pledged to allow NGOs recently raided by security forces to reopen and operate after the US voiced disgruntlement over a security crackdown on 17 NGOs, according to The New York Times.

Speaking to anonymous US officials, the Times reported that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) reassured US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta during a 25-minute discussion by phone, promising to return documents, computers and other property seized Thursday.

The conversation took place after a crackdown drew criticism upon the military from the US and European countries, along with local condemnations.

“While the Egyptian government did not confirm that it would halt the raids, the swift, high-level intervention by [Barack] Obama administration officials in Cairo and in Washington and by European officials underscored the seriousness of the diplomatic affront the raids had caused and their potential to sour relations significantly if they continued,” read the Times’ story.

US foreign aid to Egypt, a total of $1.3 billion annually, is contingent upon the latter's commitment to democracy, which the US State Department has to certify, according to a new Congressional restriction. After the crackdown, certification appears to be hanging in the balance.

“Raids on the very organisations working to support that transition (to democracy) belie the SCAF’s promises, and the promise of a democratic future for Egypt,” Senator Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat in Maryland, said in a statement Friday.

The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary ‎and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP), the Budgetary and Human ‎Rights Observatory, the Washington-based National ‎Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and ‎Freedom House were among the NGOs raided.

The raids were carried out Thursday morning by Central Security Force soldiers and officials from Egypt’s public prosecution office. 

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