Arrests before last voting round

Arrests before last voting round 
Egypt arrested at least 69 members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday, a move the group said was to scare voters on the eve of a final round of parliamentary elections in which Islamists have made stunning gains.

The Brotherhood, which has won 76 seats in the 454-seat house so far in voting over the past month, also said the United States had ignored official abuses and given the government a free hand to act as it pleased.

Rights groups have reported widespread violations in voting that began on November 9, including denying some voters access to polling stations, buying votes and fabricating the results. The government has promised a fair election.

Washington has urged Egypt to ensure a clean race but says it has seen nothing during the elections so far to suggest Cairo was not interested in a free and fair vote.

A Brotherhood spokesman and security sources said 69 Brothers were arrested on Tuesday morning in the Giza area of the capital Cairo and Sohag to the south.

The Brotherhood says more than 1,500 members have been detained since voting started. Hundreds remain in detention.

“This is a campaign to abort this final stage (of voting) and it seems that Washington turned a blind eye to the official abuses in the elections. So, the government is now doing what it wants without any pressure from any side,” Brotherhood spokesman Badr Mohamed Badr told Reuters.

The Brotherhood has to field its candidates as independents because the government refuses to recognize the group as an official party, a position the United States says it respects.

In a separate statement, the Brotherhood in Alexandria said 22 members were detained before Wednesday’s vote but did not say when the arrests took place. Badr also said there were recent arrests in other areas of Egypt but did not have details.


President Hosni Mubarak’s party has kept a big majority in parliament and is set to win enough seats in Wednesday’s voting to retain control of the constitution. Constitutional changes require a two-thirds majority in parliament.