Egypt arrests 3 top leaders and other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition

Egypt arrests 3 top leaders and other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition

 The No. 2 leader of Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood and two other top figures have been arrested by police Monday in a dawn sweep targeting members of the nation’s most powerful opposition group across the country.

The arrests, part of an ongoing crackdown, come just as the group chose a new leadership and ahead of parliamentary elections set for October.

Police arrested the new deputy leader, Mahmoud Ezzat, and two other members of the Guidance Council, Essam el-Erian and Abdul-Rahman el-Bir. A fourth member of the group’s top level decision making body was not home when police raided his house.

“These arrests will not prevent the Brotherhood from the path it has chosen to realize the renaissance of the nation and it will continue its struggle through all available peaceful means to provide freedom and confront corruption and combat tyranny,” the group said in a statement.

The group suggested that the arrests were related to its support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“This regime wants neither a partner nor a participant,” in running the country, said spokesman Mohamed Morsi, describing the arrests as a continuation of the state’s “pressure and marginalization of the whole nation.”

Morsi said the arrests wouldn’t alter plans to participate in October’s parliamentary elections.

Police said the charges against the men, as well as at least 10 other leading members arrested in the provinces, were for engaging in banned political activity – a standard government charge used against the group.

The Brotherhood was banned in 1954 but is occasionally tolerated by the state. Its candidates are allowed to run for parliament as independents and in 2005 won 20 per cent of the seats, making them Egypt’s largest opposition bloc.

“The regime wanted to express its opinion to the new leaders by punishing them and tightening the noose on the old ones,” Abdel-Gelil al-Shernouby, who runs the group’s Web site, told The Associated Press.

The move comes just weeks after the movement selected a new supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, to great fanfare and media attention. He immediately embarked on a round of meetings with various intellectuals and opposition figures in the country.

“In the last few days after Mohammed Badie’s accession, there has been a kind of media offensive in which he made various declarations and met many people,” said Diaa Rashwan, an expert on the Islamist movements.

“I think (the arrests) are a kind of intimidation of them … it is a kind of (government) offensive,” he suggested, though he didn’t expect the day-to-day work of the organization to be overly affected.

The men taken come from different tendencies in the movement, with Ezzat a powerful conservative and el-Erian known for a more pragmatic approach favouringco-operation with other political groups.

Within a year of the Brotherhood’s dramatic election victory in 2005, the government launched a wide-ranging crackdown against the group, including the arrest of Khayrat el-Shater, the group’s third-ranking member, who works as the chief strategist and financier.

In October, Egypt’s Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, who runs the nation’s powerful security apparatus, predicted that the group would not repeat their election successes in the 2010 parliamentary contests.

In elections for municipal councils and parliament’s upper house following 2005, Brotherhood candidates were disqualified from running by election officials.

The Muslim Brotherhood advocates an Islamic state in Egypt, implementing Islamic law. Moderates in the Brotherhood feel that rather than insisting on an Islamic state, it should be a party for promoting Islamic values in a democratic system.