Court releases 16 Muslim Brotherhood members

Daily News Egypt
3 Min Read

Associated Press

CAIRO: Egypt s Criminal Court on Monday ordered the release of the banned Muslim Brotherhood s No. 3 leader and 15 others after 45 days in detention, the Islamist group and police said.

The group s third-highest ranking member, Khayrat El-Shater, 55, the movement s chief strategist and a main financier, was arrested with other members on Dec. 14 in a crackdown after a protest by uniformed students that raised fears that the Islamist group was creating a military wing.

The Interior Ministry had accused the arrested Brotherhood members of recruiting students at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt s foremost Islamic institute, and providing them with combat training, knives and chains. They also were accused of belonging to an outlawed organization and possessing publications to propagate its ideologies.

Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Mahmoud said the court dropped the charges and ordered the unconditional release of the 16 members. Egyptian police confirmed the order.

On Sunday, Egyptian prosecutor Abdel Mageed Mahmoud ordered the government to freeze the assets of 29 members of the group, including El-Shater, accusing them of financing a banned movement.

Mahmoud, the Brotherhood member, said El-Shater was taken back to the prison to collect his belongings Monday but had not officially been released. It was not clear if the prosecution would try to re-arrest El-Shater and keep him in custody.

The detentions of more than 140 Brotherhood members came four days after about 50 student members of the Brotherhood staged a militia-style demonstration outside Al-Azhar, spurring an official investigation into whether the group had established a military wing. The Brotherhood denies it is setting up a military wing.

El-Shater, the Brotherhood s second deputy, joined the Brotherhood in 1974 and has been imprisoned four times for a total of seven years on charges relating to his membership.

The banned organization is Egypt s largest political opposition group and won 88 of parliament s 454 seats in 2005 elections, with its candidates running as independents.

The group, founded in 1928, established a military wing during the 1948 Middle East war to fight against Jewish forces setting up the state of Israel.

But the Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s and in recent months has been increasing its influence in powerful trade unions and challenging President Hosni Mubarak s administration in parliament.

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