CAIRO: The government crackdown on opposition groups continued this week with the arrest of Sabri Amer and Ragab Abu Zaid, two members of the People’s Assembly who also belong to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group.
State security police raided the two lawmakers’ homes in Menufiya governorate around midday on Wednesday, according to Brotherhood sources.
Both men were previously arrested on May 9 at a meeting to plan for the elections to Egypt’s upper house of parliament, the Shoura Council, in which the Brotherhood does not hold a single seat.
At that time Amer and Abu Zaid were released because their parliamentary immunity protected them from prosecution.
Shortly after their release in May, the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the People’s Assembly, which is dominated by the National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak, voted to revoke their immunity and open a criminal investigation against them.
But Muslim Brotherhood sources say that neither man was subpoenaed or made aware of an ongoing criminal investigation before Wednesday’s raids on their homes. Mohamed Habib, the deputy chairman of the MB, called the detentions “an unjustified measure which lacks decency.
“They should have subpoenaed them in a way which is in line with their prestige socially and politically, he said in a statement to Daily News Egypt. “The regime continues its tyrannical method in dealing with people in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. The government is cracking down on the group “to paralyze its political and social activities and to sideline its role in the political landscape, he argues. MP Mohamed Saad El Katatni, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the PA, called the arrests politically motivated and urged the regime to respect its own elected officials.
“These detentions are, legally speaking, arbitrary actions against two public figures, he said.
“There is a specific message and a target for these actions – humiliating MPs and exploiting the prosecution as a tool in the hands of the regime to settle scores with the opposition, he added. The Brotherhood is Egypt’s most influential opposition group, and holds 88 seats in the 454 member PA.
Brotherhood sources argue that the recent wave of arrests are in response to the group’s plans to register as an official political party in defiance of constitutional amendments passed in March that forbid political activity based on religion.
More than 600 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained since December, when members of an MB-affiliated youth group staged a kung fu-themed demonstration at Al Azhar University.
The demonstration was heavily covered by the media and denounced by the government as a militia exercise.
But the crackdown has not only focused on the group’s youth cadres, but has ensnared many of the Brotherhood’s key leaders as well.
Forty of the group’s top businessmen and financiers, including Deputy Chairman Khayrat El Shater, are currently standing trial before a military court on charges of money laundering and membership of a banned organization. Their case has attracted condemnation from human rights advocates around the world.
Additionally, Essam El Erian, a well-known Brotherhood spokesman and coordinator of the group’s political department, was detained along with 15 others in a raid on the Giza home of businessman Nabil Moqbel last week.
They stand charged with membership of a banned organization and working against the public interest, although no trial date has yet been set.