Controversy over charges in Muslim Brotherhood trial arises

Controversy over charges in Muslim Brotherhood trial arises

A military tribunal resumed its trial on Sunday of 40 leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, but controversy broke out over the exact charges they face.

On December 7, the court had cleared the defendants, who include the group”s third-in-command Khairat al-Shater, of charges of terrorism and money laundering.

But the so-called Brothers still faced the charge of belonging to an outlawed group, according to security sources.

However, a group spokesman and leader Essam el-Erian told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Sunday that the court had an “about-face” in its December 23 session regarding clearing the charges.

“The court said that they will keep all the charges as a precaution,” he said. El-Erian, a lawyer himself, added that he does not understand how the charges could be upheld as such.

“This trial is exceptional and unfair,” el-Erian said. The 40 high-profile Muslim Brothers are civilians being tried in a military court. International rights group and top legal experts have contested the legality of the trial.

The procedures that the military tribunal follows make it difficult to predict any outcomes, el-Erian said.

“Probabilities and expectations are unlimited. I can not assume nor expect anything (positive) from this trial.”

According to el-Erian, there has been at least seven military trials during the history of the Muslim Brothers, but none has resulted in what he termed “an efficient solution.”

“The trials have led to more sympathy towards the Muslim Brotherhood and further increased the tension between the government and the group,” he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a self-styled political group which believes that applying Islamic jurisprudence is the most effective way of achieving political reform. The group is a strong opponent to the Egyptian government.

Although outlawed, the group managed to win 88 seat in the Egyptian parliament by filing candidates as “independents” in the last parliamentary elections in 2005.