New York Times: Investigation of IRI and Other Civil Society Groups ‘Bogus’

Egypt’s Assault on Civil Society
The New York Times

Post-Mubarak Egypt is facing profound challenges with its unfinished revolution and looming economic crisis. The last thing it needs is to pick a fight with the United States. Yet the military rulers have done just that, demonstrating contempt for civil society and an old ally.

On Dec. 29, security forces raided as many as seven nongovernmental groups in Cairo, including three American-financed democracy-building groups — the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House. Employees were hauled in for questioning in a bogus criminal investigation.

On Thursday, the Egyptian government confirmed that it had barred at least six Americans — including I.R.I.’s Egypt director, Sam LaHood, the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — from leaving the country.

The generals make the specious charge that recent unrest was caused by “foreign hands.” Outside forces didn’t drive Egyptians to courageously rise up against Hosni Mubarak. And outside forces aren’t driving them to keep pressing the military to keep its promises and move fully to civilian rule. If Egyptians want outside help to make that transition, they should be allowed to accept it.

I.R.I.’s president, Lorne Craner, said that in his organization’s 30-year history, it has never been treated like this by any country, including Russia, China and Venezuela.

Egypt’s military receives $1.3 billion in annual aid from Washington. It is beyond us why the generals would keep pressing this destructive dispute, even after hearing remonstrations from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. They must let Mr. LaHood and the others go immediately.

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