Police arrest 36 Muslim Brotherhood members

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CAIRO: Authorities on Thursday arrested 36 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in dawn raids, a security source said, ahead of key local elections in April.

The arrests were made in Manufiya and Sharqiya in the Nile Delta and in Fayoum, south of Cairo, the source said.

They are accused of belonging to an illegal organization, the source told AFP.

The Brotherhood says a continued clampdown by the authorities is aimed at preventing its members from running in local elections in April.

The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned, but it holds more than a fifth of the seats in parliament although its representatives sit as “independents because of its illegal status.

Traditionally controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party, the municipal polls are now expected to draw fierce competition after a constitutional amendment was passed in 2005.

The amendment requires independent presidential candidates to also secure the backing of municipal council members.

It stipulates that candidates who do not belong to an official party must gather signatures from 250 elected officials, including 65 from parliament s lower house, 25 from the upper house and from 10 municipal council members.

The municipal elections were postponed for two years in 2006, in what observers say was a way to avoid another Muslim Brotherhood election success following the Islamist group s shock gains in the 2005 legislative polls. -AFP

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