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05 December 2023

Egypt accuses NGOs of meddling in politics


Egyptian judges probing alleged illegal foreign funding of non-governmental organisations on Wednesday accused domestic and foreign groups, including American ones, of illegally meddling in politics.

The NGOs are operating "without license," and their work "constitutes pure political activity and has nothing to do with civil society work," Judge Sameh Abu Zeid told a press conference.

The judge said December raids on 17 offices of local and foreign NGOs as part of a probe into illegal funding had been conducted "according to the law."

"It is a very large and complicated case involving hundreds of people and organisations, Egyptian and foreign," he said.

He said dozens of people had been referred to trial because there was deemed to be enough evidence.

Among them are 19 Americans, a fact that prompted a trio of leading US senators to warn Egypt that the risk of a "disastrous" rupture in ties had "rarely been greater."

Abu Zeid said "there is much evidence, including witness accounts, expert accounts and confessions. There are 67 items of evidence," Abu Zeid said.

The groups being investigated include the US International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House and the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation.

"The foreign organisations are not civil society groups but branches of organisations based abroad," said Abu Zeid.

He said security agencies had repeatedly refused to register the NGOs who "have been working in Egypt for years on tourist visas.

"They received orders from abroad to do this and were told not to get work permits. They also violated Egyptian tax laws."

He said the case involved NGOs that had received illegal funding from the United States, from European countries and also from Arab countries.

Investigations showed that their work "took another dimension after the January 25 revolution" that ousted president Hosni Mubarak last year, Abu Zeid said.

"The activities became political, related to training political parties or mobilising people.

"Money was transferred to the organisations through a range of ways, including in individual accounts of employees, instead of in bank accounts in the organisation's name; or through money transfer companies," he said.