Egypt to return seized equipment and money, U.S. officials say
The Egyptian government has agreed to return equipment and money seized Thursday from Egyptian, American and other nongovernmental groups and to begin formal talks over their disputed participation in Egypt’s political system, U.S. State Department officials said Friday.
U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson “sought and received Egyptian leadership assurances that the raids will cease and property will be returned immediately,” said a statement by a senior administration official who asked to be identified as such.
Yet officials acknowledged that the groups’ activities will remain suspended indefinitely, including their participation in observing the round of parliamentary elections that is scheduled for next week.
Egyptian activists and U.S. officials reacted with outrage when authorities seized laptops, cellphones, other equipment and cash from the Egyptian offices of at least 17 nongovernmental groups. Among them were three U.S.-based groups: the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, and International Republican Institute.
The 17 groups say their activities are nonpartisan and aimed at helping the Egyptian people organize and learn technical skills involved in democratic government. But the country’s military rulers have strongly resisted the organizations’ work, in some cases viewing them as foreign meddling in their domestic politics, and have launched an investigation into alleged violations of Egyptian law.
Egyptian activists complain that the nation’s military rulers, who have been in charge since former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February, have been moving too slowly toward democracy, with presidential elections not planned until the middle of 2012. Several hundred protesters again gathered in central Cairo on Friday to press for change.