President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is appointing a national security adviser who two years ago spearheaded criminal charges that nonprofit groups were acting as agents of an American conspiracy to weaken and destabilize Egypt.
The new adviser, Fayza Abul Naga, provoked one of the biggest crises in Cairo’s 35-year-old alliance with Washington. The case forced the son of an American cabinet secretary to hide in the United States Embassy for weeks for fear of arrest. It elicited personal threats and appeals by President Obama to Egypt’s top generals. And it culminated in the reported payment of as much as $4.6 million in forfeited bail and the secretive flight of a half dozen United States citizens on a charter jet to Cyprus.
Analysts said Ms. Abul Naga’s return underscored the Sisi government’s persistent disregard for its alliance with Washington, as well as a darkly suspicious view of civil organizations.
“The fact that she is such a recognizable face clearly makes this an obvious slap in the face to the United States, but it is in keeping with the way that this government has handled the bilateral relationship,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egyptian-American researcher at the Century Foundation, based in New York.
And domestically, he said, “this is just confirmation of what we already know about the government: Its approach to civil society is unbridled hostility, and there is a real possibility that the sector is going to be squelched and shut down completely in the coming months.”
Ms. Abul Naga served for many years as minister in charge of international cooperation under President Hosni Mubarak, who relied on her to haggle with Washington for control of the roughly $250 million in annual nonmilitary American aid. After Mr. Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, she was one of the few of his cabinet ministers retained in the military-led transitional government.
It was at the end of that year that Ms. Abul Naga led the criminal case against three American nonprofit groups chartered by Congress to promote democracy: the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House. The police raided their offices, seized computers and documents, and placed travel bans on their employees — including Sam LaHood of the International Republican Institute, the son of Ray LaHood, then secretary of transportation. To avoid arrest, Sam LaHood and at least two other Americans camped out in the offices of the American Embassy.
Prosecutors accused the organizations’ employees, including dozens of Egyptians, of violating a strict but seldom-enforced ban on receiving unauthorized financing from abroad, charges punishable by prison time. But in court papers and the state news media, Ms. Abul Naga further accused the organizations of participating in a scheme by the American government to stir unrest in the streets.