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Egypt will stop attacks on democracy groups says US

Egypt has promised the United States that it will end its attacks and raids on the offices of democracy groups and NGOs, the US State Department has announced.

Officials have reassured that property seized during the raids would be given back to the groups, including two NGOs based in the US.

Leon Panetta, who is the American Defence Secretary, has discussed the issue over the phone with Egypt’s military ruler. Egyptian police raided the headquarters of 17 democracy groups in Cairo last Thursday, which occurred after the nation expressed its concern over overseas funding.

The nation’s ruling military council has repeatedly announced its no-tolerance policy of foreigners meddling in Egyptian affairs. However, the US responded immediately to the raids, condemning them as attacks on democracy and insinuating that it would review its $1.3bn annual military aid to Cairo if such attacks continued.

According to the US State Department, the American ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, along with Mr Panetta, spoke to top officials in the north African country, including Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi.

In emailed comments by spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, it was announced that the ambassador had sought and received assurances by the Egyptian leadership that the attacks would end and property would be returned.

The ambassador also declared that all international NGOs, including groups receiving US government support, would be able to go back to routine operations immediately in order to support the democratic transition taking place in Egypt.

The director of American human rights group Freedom House, David Kramer, warned that, while he welcomed Egypt’s reassurance, it was still not enough to undo the destruction. Mr Kramer, who also had his office raided, stated that certain articles of his seized property was yet to be returned.

Last weeks’ raids were part of an investigation by Egyptian authorities into claims of illicit funding from overseas. Evidence showed that certain groups were in violation of federal laws, including not holding operating permits, according to prosecutors.

However, analysts suggested the raids were part of a larger move by the military council to gag dissent following months of condemnation of Egypt’s human rights record. Ever since a popular rebellion ousted ex President Hosni Mubarak last February, the military council, or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), has been governing Egypt.

However, in recent months the government has been the focus of widespread protests, as pro-democracy activists questioned the military’s commitment to democratic reform.

 

 

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