An Egyptian minister seen as the driving force behind impending trials of democracy activists, including 19 Americans, told investigators that Washington funded their groups to create a state of prolonged chaos in Egypt, official media reported Monday.
International cooperation minister Fayza Abul Naga, believed to be the instigator of a judicial probe into foreign-funded civil society groups, made the accusation in testimony to the investigating judges in October.
Abul Naga, one of the few remaining ministers from president Hosni Mubarak’s era, added that the United States and Israel wanted to hijack Egypt’s uprising that toppled Mubarak a year ago to serve the interests of Washington and the Jewish state.
“The United States and Israel could not create a state of chaos and work to maintain it in Egypt directly, so they used direct funding to organisations, especially American, as a means of implementing these goals,” the official MENA news agency quoted her as saying, in the first public disclosure of the claims.
The impending trials of 44 activists, including 19 Americans, have deepened a rift between the traditional allies, with the State Department hinting that the crackdown could jeopardise American aid to Egypt.
Abul Naga said “the January 25 uprising came as a surprise to the United States, and it slipped from its control when it transformed into a people’s revolution.”
“That was when the United States decided to use all its resources and instruments to contain the situation and push it in a direction that promotes American and also Israeli interests,” the agency quoted her as saying.
MENA reported that a judicial investigation into the funding of several civil society groups found that the United States had diverted aid promised for infrastructure to the NGOs.
Cairo prosecutors backed by police in December stormed the offices of the US-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House as part of a probe into the NGO’s alleged illegal foreign funding.
They were among 17 offices of local and international NGOs raided.
The crackdown was part of a wider campaign by Egypt’s military rulers to silence dissent after months of criticism of its human rights record, analysts said.
The ruling generals, who took charge of the country after an uprising forced president Hosni Mubarak to resign a year ago, traditionally had close ties with the United States, the Egyptian military’s most generous foreign benefactor.
The aid workers are accused of “setting up branches of international organisations in Egypt without a license from the Egyptian government” and of “receiving illegal foreign funding.”