US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday condemned the Egyptian government for its crackdown on non-government organizations as a bid to "intimidate" them ahead of legislative elections.
"Arresting activists and conducting late night raids on independent organizations is what is damaging Egypt's reputation," HRW director, Hanny Megally, said in a statement.
"These attacks are clearly intended to intimidate and hamper the work of independent non-government groups in the run-up to the elections," said Megally, the executive director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division.
On July 1st, the Egyptian authorities launched raids on the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, arresting its director Saadeddin Ibrahim and several associates over the next few days.
On Wednesday, they raided the Association for the Women Voter's Support Center, detaining several people there for questioning.
Thousands of forged election cards, copies of a check from the European Union worth 200,000 dollars and a computer were reported seized in the raid on the women's center.
The authorities said the seized material added to the pile of evidence against Ibrahim.
Stacks of voting cards were confiscated last weekend from the Ibn Khaldun center, and investigators accused Ibrahim of having paid researchers to register fictitious names of voters on the cards.
Elections are scheduled for the autumn, and Ibrahim's center studies such as human rights issues and how to promote democracy.
The HRW said it had not received a response to a letter sent July 2nd asking Egypt's prosecutor general for immediate clarification of the charges and evidence against Ibrahim and others arrested in preventive detention.
Ibrahim faces 15 years in prison if found guilty of the charges of forgery, fraud, taking bribes from abroad, harming the interests of the country and violating a military order of 1992 prohibiting obtaining funds from foreign parties without authorization.
Four more employees of the Ibn Khaldun center were detained Saturday for questioning in connection with the investigation, the authorities said.
Three employees from Women Voter's Support Center were also detained for questioning on Saturday.
Both centers have been temporarily closed.
The HRW statement said such closures violate the basic right to freedom of association, which it says Egypt is committed to uphold under international treaties it has signed - CAIRO (AFP)
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