- February 16, 2010
Egypt: A new warning to the Muslim Brothers
Senior Brotherhood members Issam Irian and Abdul Rahman Al-Barr were also detained, lawyer Abdul Moneim Abdul Maqsoud said in a statement posted on the group’s website.
The attorney, citing initial reports, said 10 other Brotherhood members were arrested in other raids, including in the coastal city of Alexandria in the north, the southern province of Asyout and the Nile Delta.
He said the group was still trying to determine exactly how many of its members were rounded up.
“This campaign of arrests is unjustified and we expect that more people have been arrested as Brotherhood lawyers are still receiving the names of those detained from the various provinces,” Abdul Maqsoud’s statement said.
A security official who declined to be named, confirmed the arrests in a brief statement to reporters, saying those rounded up “are accused of membership of an outlawed group”.
The Brotherhood said it would not be deterred from its drive for greater political freedom.
It said the Brotherhood would “continue in their struggle by all peaceful means to secure freedoms, confront corruption and battle oppression”.
The group’s statement suggested that the arrests were linked “to the political activity expected in Egypt ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections”.
Egypt is due to elect Parliament’s upper house, or Shoura Council, in April while elections for the lower house are expected to take place some time in autumn, and a presidential election is scheduled for next year.
The Islamists hold a fifth of the seats in Parliament after fielding candidates as independents in the 2005 legislative polls.
The authorities frequently crack down on the officially outlawed but tolerated Brotherhood, Egypt’s main opposition group.
Monday’s arrests were the first since Mohammad Badie was chosen as the group’s new chairman in mid-January, replacing Mohammad Akef, whose tenure was undermined by deep divisions between conservatives and reformists.
A former radical, Badie pledged in a post-election speech to work toward “progressive reforms” using peaceful and constitutional means, and said he rejects violence.
“The regime wants to obstruct the Brotherhood’s participation in the next elections”, said Hamdi Hasan, the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc spokesman.
According to Hasan, the authorities have intensified their campaign against the Brotherhood ever since the Islamists announced they planned to contest the Shoura Council elections.
Hossam Tammam, an expert on the Brotherhood, said the arrests were “part of a strategy by the regime to strike at the Brotherhood in order to weaken them, but without entering with them in a total confrontation”.
The Egyptian authorities repeatedly accuse the Brotherhood — which was founded in 1928 — of seeking to topple the government.
The group denies the allegation and accuses the government of carrying out arrests to weaken it politically.