CAIRO Egyptian authorities have ordered the closure of a prominent local non-governmental organization that documents alleged human rights abuses and treats torture victims, the NGO and security sources said on Wednesday.
Security sources and a lawyer for the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence and Torture said authorities agreed to hold off from closing it down until next week to allow more time to explain the reasons for the move.
Sources in the Health Ministry, which issues licenses for the Nadeem center, said it had committed unspecified violations.
Nadeem center director Aida Seif el-Dawla described the action as part of the toughest crackdown on dissent in Egypt's modern history. "Unless they arrest us all, we will continue in our work as long as we remain out of prison," she told Reuters.
"It would be stupid if they shut down the center because we provide a service that no one else provides to the underprivileged."
Amnesty International condemned the move against the Nadeem center, saying the NGO gives a lifeline to hundreds of victims of torture and families of people subjected to enforced disappearances.
Human rights groups accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government of widespread abuses, allegations it denies.
As armed forces chief, Sisi toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
Security forces killed hundreds of Mursi supporters in the streets and arrested thousands of others.
Secular activists were later rounded up. NGOs have also been closed under what government critics say is a rollback on political freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that ended 30 years of rule under President Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptian authorities deny allegations by human rights groups and activists that security forces round up people and detain them in secret detention centers where they are tortured.
"This looks to us like a barefaced attempt to shut down an organization which has been a bastion for human rights and a thorn in the side of the authorities for more than 20 years,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Egypt's human rights record has come under fresh scrutiny since Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, 28, was tortured and found dead on the outskirts of Cairo this month.
The government has denied media reports that he was arrested by security forces before his death.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)