8 US-based civil society groups barred from working in Egypt: report


One of fourteen Egyptian activists who worked in Egypt with civil society groups stands inside a cage during their trial in Cairo on February 26, 2012. Egypt started the trial of dozens of democracy activists including Americans on charges of receiving illegal foreign funding, despite Washington's insistence that the charges be dropped. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images


Khaled Desouki

Egyptian authorities have rejected registration bids from eight US non-profit organizations, according to a report from the state-run MENA news agency, said The New York Times

The move comes amid a high-profile dispute over foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Egypt, a case that once looked to threaten the country's billion-dollar military aid deal with the US and even prompted a visit to Egypt by US Senator John McCain

The US-based groups banned Monday are separate from those involved in the NGO case. They include the Carter Center, members of which The New York Times said were to help monitor Egypt's upcoming presidential election, as well as Seeds of Peace, a group that works to bring Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian youth together at a US camp, a charity organization called Coptic Orphans, and a Mormon outreach group, said MENA. 

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The state-run news organization said the groups' applications were rejected because Egypt's Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry found their activities constituted a threat to country's national sovereignty, said Reuters

Coptic Orphans' lawyer Negad al-Borai told Reuters that it was unclear "how a charity group like the Coptic Orphans, which works with over 35 churches in Egypt to provide medical and social aid, was rejected." 

The Carter Center's Sanne van den Bergh, of the group's Egypt center, told the Associated Press on Monday that "[a]t the moment" the group had not received any formal rejection and would continue working unless notified otherwise.

If the group receives a formal rejection, the Associated Press said it looks to imperil their monitoring efforts ahead of the nation's historic elections following the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak last year. 

The move also comes after Interpol on Monday rejected Egyptian requests for arrest warrants for 15 workers tied to the disputed case, suggesting Egyptian authorities are stepping up efforts ahead of Thursday's hearing of 43 Egyptian and foreign NGO workers charged with pursuing politicized activities within the context of their rights work.

The rejections are likely to further strain Cairo's relations with Washington as world attention returns to the disputed NGO case involving major US groups like the federally-funded National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House. The trial was postponed to April 26 after being delayed by the resignation of several judges in February. 

The non-partisan groups have denied charges of carrying out politicized work in Egypt. 

Local human rights organizations have accused Egyptian authorities of purposefully obscuring their legal position so as to justify raids and other monitoring mechanisms that NGO workers say are an infringement on their rights, according to Reuters