Egypt: Brotherhood crackdown sees more leaders arrested
On Saturday evening, Gamal Heshmat, a leading Muslim Brotherhood reformist leader and former Member of Parliament, was arrested by Egyptian security forces in the most recent raid against the Islamic group. The arrest of yet another reformer has left the Brotherhood worried that the continued pressures being exerted by the government could lead to a conservative and extremist backlash.
Heshmat was arrested along with 12 other members, including Mohamed Sweidan, the chief administrator in the Beheira governorate.
According to sources within the Brotherhood, they were taken at around 7 pm on Saturday and it is unclear what they are being charged with, but a statement from the Brotherhood late in the evening said they are likely to face similar charges to the approximately 300 MB members currently languishing in prison.
Cairo usually holds Brotherhood leaders on charges of “belonging to a banned organization” and “receiving financial support from foreign sources.” The MB’s Executive Bureau – the Congress-like committee of the Islamic group – has denied receiving money from foreigners.
Earlier this summer, popular reformist leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh – he is also the Secretary-General of the Arab Doctors Union in Cairo – was arrested. He has been in police custody for more than three months and is being accused of attempting to “develop an international Islamic network.”
Aboul Fotouh’s arrest and subsequent detention has sparked much ire among activists, including secularists, who believe the crackdown against Brotherhood members is “inappropriate.” George Ishaq, a leading Kefaya (Enough) Movement activist, told Bikya Masr at a downtown solidarity demonstration for the embattled MB leader, that the “regime wants to take down anyone who opposes it and this will not happen. We will stand strong in the face of their arrogance.”
For Heshmat, Sweidan and others, the battle now heads to the courts, where release orders are routinely thrown aside by the interior ministry, who uses the nearly 30-year-old Emergency Laws to hold citizens indefinitely.
Khaled Hamza, the Editor of the Brotherhood’s English Language website Ikhwanweb, said in a statement that he fears the arrests will spark a backlash among the younger generation, who is becoming more and more fed up with the current state of affairs in Egypt.
“The ongoing crackdown and arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood’s reformists and leaders serves only the extremists who are against any form of peaceful democracy,” he began. “The radical measures adopted by the Egyptian regime with the continued arrests and crackdowns of peaceful and distinguished members of the movement will result in an outbreak by the younger generation who will follow and embrace the extremists’ path.”
The warning is worrying many in Egypt, who feel the arrests are doing more harm than good. But, what is certain is that the Brotherhood continues to push on, preparing itself for a January vote for a new Supreme Guide.
“We will not be stopped by the government to have a democratic election, something they do not do,” said current Supreme Guide Mahdy Akef.
The Brotherhood has been facing a government backlash since their surprise showing in the 2005 Parliamentary elections that saw them secure nearly one-fifth of the Parliamentary seats. Hundreds of members have seen the inside of jail cells since that election victory as Cairo prepares for life after President Hosni Mubarak, who is not expected to run for another term in 2011.