trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president's removal US
Al Jazeera, 10 Jul 2013
[Condensed version of original article]
But a review of dozens of US federal government documents shows
quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of
the country's now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi. Washington
Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC [
University of California show the Berkeley
channelled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in
the US Middle East region. This programme vigorously
supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in ,
after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in
February 2011. Egypt
Activists bankrolled by the programme include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians who pushed for the ouster of the country's first democratically elected leader, government documents show.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, and public records reveal
"democracy assistance" may have violated Egyptian law, which
prohibits foreign political funding. Washington
It may also have broken US government regulations that ban the use of taxpayers' money to fund foreign politicians, or finance subversive activities that target democratically elected governments.
'Bureau for Democracy'
In turn, those groups re-route money to other organisations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House, among others. Federal documents show these groups have sent funds to certain organisations in
mostly run by senior members of anti-Morsi political parties who double as NGO
A main conduit for channeling the State Department's democracy funds to
has been the National Endowment for Democracy. Federal documents show NED,
which in 2011 was authorised an annual budget of $118m by Congress, funnelled
at least $120,000 over several years to an exiled Egyptian police officer who
has for years incited violence in his native country. Egypt
This appears to be in direct contradiction to its Congressional mandate, which clearly states NED is to engage only in "peaceful" political change overseas.
Colonel Omar Afifi Soliman - who served in
elite investigative police unit, notorious for human rights abuses - began
receiving NED funds in 2008 for at least four years. Egypt
During that time he and his followers targeted Mubarak's government, and Soliman later followed the same tactics against the military rulers who briefly replaced him. Most recently Soliman set his sights on Morsi's government.
Soliman, who has refugee status in the
was sentenced in absentia last year for five years imprisonment by a US
court for his role in inciting violence in 2011 against the embassies of Cairo
and Israel ,
two Saudi Arabia allies. US
He also used social media to encourage violent attacks against Egyptian officials, according to court documents and a review of his social media posts.
US Internal Revenue Service documents reveal that NED paid tens of thousands of dollars to Soliman through an organisation he created called Hukuk Al-Nas (People's Rights), based in Falls Church, Virginia. Federal forms show he is the only employee.
After he was awarded a 2008 human rights fellowship at NED and moved to the
Soliman received a second $50,000 NED grant in 2009 for Hukuk Al-Nas. In 2010,
he received $60,000 and another $10,000 in 2011. US
INED has removed public access to its Egyptian grant recipients in 2011 and 2012 from its website. NED officials didn't respond to repeated interview requests.
'Pro bono advice'
NED's website says Soliman spreads only nonviolent literature, and his group was set up to provide "immediate, pro bono [free] legal advice through a telephone hotline, instant messaging, and other social networking tools".
However, in Egyptian media interviews, social media posts and YouTube videos, Soliman encouraged the violent overthrow of
government, then led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. Egypt
"Incapacitate them by smashing their knee bones first," he instructed followers on Facebook in late June, as Morsi's opponents prepared massive street rallies against the government.
US-funded and trained military later used those demonstrations to justify its
coup on July 3. Egypt
"Make a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses going into
, and drench
the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down for the bump,
set it all ablaze so it will burn down with all the passengers inside … God
bless," Soliman's post read. Cairo
In late May he instructed, "Behead those who control power, water and gas utilities."
More recent Facebook instructions to his 83,000 followers range from guidelines on spraying roads with a mix of auto oil and gas - "20 litres of oil to 4 litres of gas"- to how to thwart cars giving chase.
On a YouTube video, Soliman took credit for a failed attempt in December to storm the Egyptian presidential palace with handguns and Molotov cocktails to oust Morsi.
Funding other Morsi opponents
Other beneficiaries of
government funding are also opponents of the now-deposed president, some who
had called for Morsi's removal by force. US
The Salvation Front main opposition bloc, of which some members received US funding, has backed street protest campaigns that turned violent against the elected government, in contradiction of many of the State Department's own guidelines.
A long-time grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy and other
democracy groups is a 34-year old Egyptian woman, Esraa Abdel-Fatah, who sprang
to notoriety during the country's pitched battle over the new constitution in
December 2012. US
She exhorted activists to lay siege to mosques and drag from pulpits all Muslim preachers and religious figures who supported the country's the proposed constitution, just before it went to a public referendum.
The act of besieging mosques has continued ever since, and several people have died in clashes defending them.
Federal records show Abdel-Fatah's NGO, the Egyptian Democratic Academy, received support from NED, MEPI and NDI, among other State Department-funded groups "assisting democracy". Records show NED gave her organisation a one-year $75,000 grant in 2011.
Abdel-Fatah is politically active, crisscrossing
to rally support for her Al-Dostor Party, which is led by former UN nuclear
chief Mohamed El-Baradei, the most prominent figure in the Salvation Front. She
lent full support to the military takeover, and urged the West not call it a
"June 30 will be the last day of Morsi's term," she told the press a few weeks before the coup took place.
Michael Meunier is a frequent guest on TV channels that opposed Morsi. Head of the Al-Haya Party, Meunier - a dual US-Egyptian citizen - has quietly collected US funding through his NGO, Hand In Hand for Egypt Association.
Meunier's organisation was founded by some of the most vehement opposition figures, including Egypt's richest man and well-known Coptic Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, Tarek Heggy, an oil industry executive, Salah Diab, Halliburton's partner in Egypt, and Usama Ghazali Harb, a politician with roots in the Mubarak regime and a frequent US embassy contact.
Meunier has denied receiving
assistance, but government documents show USAID in 2011 granted his Cairo-based
organisation $873,355. Since 2009, it has taken in $1.3 million from the US
Meunier helped rally the country's five million Christian Orthodox Coptic minority, who oppose Morsi's Islamist agenda, to take to the streets against the president on June 30.
Reform and Development Party member Mohammed Essmat al-Sadat received
financial support through his Sadat Association for Social Development, a
grantee of The Middle East Partnership Initiative. US
The federal grants records and database show in 2011 Sadat collected $84,445 from MEPI "to work with youth in the post-revolutionary
Sadat was a member of the coordination committee, the main organising body for the June 30 anti-Morsi protest. Since 2008, he has collected $265,176 in US funding. Sadat announced he will be running for office again in upcoming parliamentary elections.
After soldiers and police killed more than 50 Morsi supporters on Monday, Sadat defended the use of force and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, saying it used women and children as shields.
Some US-backed politicians have said
tacitly encouraged them to incite protests. Washington
"We were told by the Americans that if we see big street protests that sustain themselves for a week, they will reconsider all current US policies towards the Muslim Brotherhood regime," said Saaddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American politician opposed Morsi.
Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldoun Center in
funding, one of the largest recipients of democracy promotion money in fact. US
His comments followed statements by other Egyptian opposition politicians claiming they had been prodded by US officials to whip up public sentiment against Morsi before
could publicly weigh in. Washington
Democracy programme defence
The practice of funding politicians and anti-government activists through NGOs was vehemently defended by the State Department and by a group of Washington-based
experts close to the programme.
"The line between politics and activism is very blurred in this country," said David Linfield, spokesman for the US Embassy in
Others said the
cannot be held responsible for activities
by groups it doesn't control. United
convicted 43 local and foreign NGO workers last month on charges of illegally
using foreign funds to stir unrest in Cairo .
The Egypt and UN
expressed concern over the move. US
Some Egyptians, meanwhile, said the
was out of line by sending cash through its democracy programme in the US Middle
East to organisations run by political operators.
"Instead of being sincere about backing democracy and reaching out to the Egyptian people, the US has chosen an unethical path," said Esam Neizamy, an independent researcher into foreign funding in Egypt, and a member of the country's Revolutionary Trustees, a group set up to protect the 2011 revolution.
Excuses for the Egyptian coup
Excerpt from: ‘Egyptian Coup Apologists Offer Lame Rationalizations’, by Haroon Siddiqui, the Toronto Star’s Editorial Page Editor Emeritus
Apologists for the Egyptian coup, including many Egyptian Canadians, are offering
1. The situation was chaotic and the economy in ruins — someone had to restore order.
That’s the standard excuse for military coups. Besides, the army itself encouraged the
undermining of Morsi by Mubarak-era courts, Mubarak-era police and Mubarak-era
financiers who backed mass demonstrations. They created the upheavals that killed
tourism and stifled the economy.
2. Morsi only controlled the parliament where his Muslim Brotherhood had nearly half
the seats. But the assembly was dismissed by the courts, leaving him only his own
elected legitimacy — and that was what was systematically destroyed.
3. Morsi was partisan and unilateral. He was — but far less so than, say, Stephen
Harper and the Republicans in Congress. He appointed no more party loyalists and
nincompoops than [Canadian Prime Minister] Harper has to the Senate or other public institutions.
4. Morsi had only a “narrow mandate,” at 52 per cent in a two-way race. But his was a
bigger margin than Obama’s. And in multi-party elections, the Brotherhood
proportionately won more seats than either Harper’s or [UK Pfime Minister] David Cameron’s
5. Morsi was taking orders from the Muslim Brotherhood. He no doubt was but no
more so than members of the [U.S.] Congress sing their key funders’ tunes.
6. He was advancing sharia or he may have been preparing to do so. In fact, he fought
off Salafist demands for constitutional guarantees for Islamic law.