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Egypt police change tactics in Brotherhood crackdown
Egyptian security forces have rounded up a number of Muslim Brotherhood members after briefly banning the Islamist party’s mouthpiece publication, a spokesman for the Islamist movement said Wednesday. In another setback to Egypt’s reform drive, a court sentenced a female journalist to one year in jail for libeling a judge. The move drew condemnation from Egyptian rights bodies.
Thursday, March 9,2006 00:00
by Agence France Presse (AFP)

Egyptian security forces have rounded up a number of Muslim Brotherhood members after briefly banning the Islamist party’s mouthpiece publication, a spokesman for the Islamist movement said Wednesday.

In another setback to Egypt’s reform drive, a court sentenced a female journalist to one year in jail for libeling a judge. The move drew condemnation from Egyptian rights bodies.

In the latest campaign against the Brotherhood, Issam al-Aryan said that security forces had threatened to hold the family of one now-detained member, Abdel-Moneim Mahmoud, hostage until he handed himself in.

Mahmoud, 26, who lives in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, is an outspoken member of the Brotherhood.

"This is a new phenomenon," Aryan said. "Now they are occupying homes in order to force their (Brotherhood members’) surrender," Aryan said.

In the past, Aryan said, security forces arrested Brotherhood members in the middle of the night or at dawn in their homes.

But the alleged holding of families hostage and recent arrests on the street and in public places such as coffee shops suggest a break with tradition.

Brotherhood member Ayman Abu al-Ghani was arrested along with his wife as they were picking up their children from school in the northeastern Cairo suburb of Nasr city, Aryan said.

"The family members were detained for four hours while the police searched their home," he added.

Aryan said the arrests brought to over 20 the number of Brotherhood figures detained since last week when authorities unleashed a new campaign against the group, the largest opposition force in the country.

Brotherhood officials suggested the renewed hostility against them may have been triggered by an article by Rashad Bayyoumi, a member of the group’s Guidance Office, in the Afaq Arabia weekly. He was picked up in a first wave of arrests last week.

The edition that carried the article criticizing President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal Mubarak, was banned outright and the paper has not appeared on the streets since then.

The Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc issued a statement Wednesday condemning the decision to ban the paper, which was launched under license from the liberal Ahrar party, but acts as the Brotherhood’s mouthpiece.

"The bloc sees in this decision further efforts to backtrack on democracy and freedom of opinion and expression," it said.

The Brotherhood said authorities had justified their decision by saying it was over a dispute within the paper’s management.

However a statement published later on the Brotherhood’s official Web site said the (governmental) Superior Press Council had reversed its ban "after solving the dispute."

Meanwhile, a Cairo court has convicted Amira Malash, a journalist for the independent Al-Fajr daily of insulting judge Attiyya Mohammad Awad in a July 2005 article in which she mentioned Awad’s name in connection with a bribery scandal. Malash insisted her story was based on an official enquiry.

The Egyptian Human Rights Organization voiced "its great concern at the strict application of laws that limit freedom of expression and impose prison terms in cases involving the press."

The Egyptian Association of Support for Democratic Development called for the immediate annulment of Tuesday’s verdict.

The two organizations called on Mubarak to fulfill his vow, made in 2004, to fight attacks on press freedom and annul prison sentences in cases to do with the press.  
 


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