By Jamie Crawford
The United States on Tuesday blamed remnants of the regime of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for the ongoing crackdown on nongovernmental organizations by Egyptian authorities.
"It is frankly unacceptable to us that the situation has not been returned to normal," U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters. "We are concerned not only about international NGOs and the NGOs that the United States government supports, but we are also concerned about Egyptian NGOs," she said.
Despite assurances from both the military and civilian sectors of the Egyptian government for a quick resumption of operations for NGOs in Egypt, the State Department says elements of the former regime are preventing that.
"We also seem to have some Mubarak holdovers in the government who don't seem to understand how these organizations operate in a democratic society, and are putting out lots of disinformation about them," Nuland said.
The role NGOs play in assisting the establishment of direct civilian rule in a democracy is anathema to the military and emergency laws in place during the Mubarak years Nuland said. "There's clearly a very aggressive propaganda effort to scare the Egyptian people," she said.
Egyptian authorities carried out 17 raids on the offices of 10 NGOs last week in Cairo but offered no clear explanation for the raids as they happened. A spokesman with the Egyptian general prosecutor's office said the raids were part of an investigation into allegations the groups had received illegal foreign financing, and were operating without a proper license. Three U.S.-based organizations operating in Egypt were part of the raid.
Egyptian police confiscated everything from desks, cell phones, documents and computers, to office safes, Leslie Campbell with the National Democratic Institute told CNN in an interview the morning after the raids. U.S.-based Freedom House and the International Republican Institute had their offices raided as well.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson both spoke with high-ranking Egyptian officials last week to voice their concern over the raids.
Jeffery Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, is traveling to Cairo later this week on a previously scheduled visit. Nuland said she "had no doubt" Feltman would be taking up the issue of the raids with his interlocutors if the situation was not resolved prior to his arrival.