New York Times Covers IRI's Rebuttal of Egyptian Accusations
CAIRO — Two American democracy-building organizations accused Egypt’s military-led government of a campaign of false statements about their activities and history, ratcheting up a confrontation between Washington and Cairo over police raids that shut down the groups’ offices.
The raids were part of an investigation into accusations that the groups and eight other nonprofit rights organizations were illegally receiving foreign financial support to influence Egypt’s politics or undermine its security. But the two organizations, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, are especially significant in part because they are closely allied with the Congressional party caucuses and are financed primarily by the United States government.
By virtue of that association, the raids by the Egyptian police — who confiscated files, money and computers — amounted to a pointed snub to Washington, a major Egyptian donor and ally. The raids followed a drumbeat of suggestions from the government that Washington was funneling money to groups here in order to destabilize the country — a pattern of complaints that American officials have denounced as creeping “anti-Americanism.”
The two groups’ public rebuttal follows a confusing diplomatic back-and-forth. On Saturday, American officials said that both Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Ambassador Anne W. Patterson had received assurances that the raids would stop and that the property would be returned. But the next day, Egyptian officials in charge of the matter said that the raids were proper because the organizations had broken Egyptian laws by interfering in Egyptian politics.
United States officials have not yet addressed the apparent contradictions.
But on Monday, both the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute issued detailed responses to show that they had complied with Egyptian law and remained politically neutral.
Both groups, which operate around the world, said that they provide training in the nuts and bolts of grass-roots organizing, nonpartisan voter education and electoral campaigns, but that they do not seek to influence political outcomes. Both said that they had first applied for an official registration required to operate in Egypt several years ago. The Egyptian minister of foreign affairs at the time assured the National Democratic Institute “that all of its papers were in order and that the registration would be approved within four to five weeks,” the group said in its statement. But it never was.
Both groups said they had maintained open relations with the Egyptian government ever since, informing the authorities of all their activities. “N.D.I. was repeatedly told that registration would eventually be granted,” the group said. “At no time was N.D.I. asked to stop its work or close its office.” As recently as June, the group said, the Foreign Ministry said its application was “in order” and its registration was “still pending.”
Both groups also said that Washington had provided them with far less than the $200 million figure that Egyptian officials have suggested. The National Democratic Institute said that Congress had given it $14 million over two years for Egypt, while the Republican group said it received $9 million a year over the same period. Each said its budget was just a half a percent of American aid to Egypt over the period. And each noted that just weeks ago the Egyptian authorities had formally invited them to help monitor the continuing parliamentary elections.