Egyptian police detain 50 members of ’Muslim Brotherhood’ on eve of run-off polls
Police detain about 50 members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on eve of run-off polls
Eds: RECASTS and UPDATES throughout with arrest toll rising to about 50; CHANGES overline
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Police have detained at least 50 members of Egypt’s largest Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, on the eve of run-off elections to parliament, police and the group’s officials said Friday.
The detentions took place in five provinces. A senior Brotherhood official, Ali Abdel Fattah, said the detainees had been playing an active role in the outlawed group’s election campaign.
"The police are back to their old habits of cracking down on the Brotherhood," Fattah said.
The group’s media coordinator, Abdel Moneim Mohammed, said the police had detained 58 members: 38 in three Nile Delta provinces, 15 in the port city of Alexandria, four in the southern Qena province, and one in Fayoum _ a town south of Cairo.
A police official confirmed the arrest of about 50 Brotherhood members in various provinces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that police had arrested 19 Brotherhood members _ 15 in Alexandria and 4 in Qena. It alleged the detainees had planned to deploy "thugs" at polling stations to disturb Saturday’s elections.
The statement said that while carrying out the arrests, the security forces confiscated "sticks, light weapons, Molotov cocktails, metal chains and Egyptian and foreign currency."
The elections are taking place at constituencies in nine provinces where no candidate got more than half the vote in the second round of the legislative polls on Nov. 20. Forty-one of the candidates standing Saturday are members of the Brotherhood.
As it is banned, the group cannot run as a party, but it endorses nominally independent candidates whose allegiance to the Brotherhood is known to the voters.
Brotherhood officials have said almost 500 of the group’s activists have been arrested since three-stage parliamentary elections began on Nov. 9. So far most have been released.
The Brotherhood’s surprising success in the polls _ it has already won 47 seats, more than tripling its total in the outgoing parliament _ has increased tensions with the ruling party headed by President Hosni Mubarak, which has long dominated the 454-seat parliament.
The third and final round of the elections is scheduled for Dec. 1.