EGYPT: Police arrest Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy chief
The deputy leader of Egypt’s largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, was detained by security forces Monday along with 14 other members in an early morning raid that appeared to be a move to weaken the organization before upcoming Parliamentary elections.
Mahmoud Ezzat, named deputy chief following the January election of Mohamed Badie as the group’s new supreme guide, was taken into custody alongside the Brotherhood’s guidance (politburo) members Essam El Eryan and Abdul Rahman El Bir. Other arrests included members, mostly university professors, from Cairo and other regions.
"At a time when the Egyptians suffer from crude and unjust practices of the ruling regime that is unable to meet the needs of the Egyptian people, widespread corruption rampant throughout the country, underdevelopment and the political stalemate, the decline in services is unprecedented and the inefficiency of alleviating the suffering of all sectors and the solving of problems in all the walks of life is very clear, Egyptians [were] shocked when the Egyptian authorities swooped on the opposition Muslim Brotherhood before dawn on Monday, February 8, 2010, arresting a number of its top leaders," the group said in a statement released on its English-language website on Monday.
The statement said that the crackdown -- reaching deep into the group's leadership structure -- may be an attempt by the government of President Hosni Mubarak to hamper the Brotherhood’s chances ahead of the upcoming elections. Brotherhood leaders have previously said that at least 200 of their members were detained by security forces over the last 15 months.
The Brotherhood's statement charged that the arrests are meant "to undermine participation by the group ahead of legislative elections later this year. Egypt is due to elect parliament's upper house, or Shura Council, in April while elections for the lower house are expected to take place sometime in the fall."
Despite being banned by the Egyptian constitution, which bars the establishment of religious-based political parties, Brotherhood candidates running as independents won 20% of the seats in Parliament in the 2005 elections. Since Badie became Brotherhood president, the organization has sent out mixed signals: One faction is preparing candidates for the upcoming elections while the conservative wing is stressing spending more energy on religious and social programs.
"This is part of the state’s campaign against the group. The group is now getting ready for the parliamentary elections and this campaign is to stem such activities,” said Brotherhood MP Mohamed Saad El Katatni.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Mahmoud Ezzat. Credit: Agence France-Presse