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Egypt's crackdown on US funded NGOs to have 'chilling effect': Analysts

Cairo, Mon, 13 Feb 2012 ANI

Cairo, Feb 13(ANI): A crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups and a proposed bill that would further restrict nongovernmental organizations has impeded development work in Egypt, analysts have said.


"This has become a huge impediment to the U.S.'s ability to deliver and to have an impact with its aid. This is casting a real shadow over all U.S. assistance to Egypt," The Guardian quoted Project on Middle East Democracy analyst Stephen McInerney, as saying.


His statement comes in the wake of raids on non-governmental organizations in Egypt backed by the country's ruling generals.


U.S. officials had hoped that Egyptian ruling military council could be persuaded to end the probe of groups that include the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. But the generals have refused to relent on the issue.


"The working environment has become poisoned by this crackdown. The consistent message of vilification of human rights has become much worse since these raids and these indictments," an Egyptian human rights advocate Hossam Bahgat said.


The military-led government Egyptian government appears to be using the NGO probe to bolster its popular support by portraying it as a response to U.S. intervention, another analyst said.


An analyst at the Washington-based International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Kareem Elbayar said the draft law and the criminal case appear to be a prelude to a sweeping crackdown on civil society.


"There's a broader chilling effect. Groups are now afraid to conduct their activities. A number of them have instructed staff to stay at home. The implications go far beyond political groups," he added.


The proposed law would empower the government to dissolve organizations, restrict the sources of foreign funding and impose stringent penalties for defaulters.


Experts expressed concern that the Muslim Brotherhood could back the law, with prominent leaders voicing support for NGO crackdown. (ANI)


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