CAIRO: New arrests Wednesday of 90 senior members and potential candidates from the banned Muslim Brotherhood has not dissuaded the opposition movement from running in the upcoming local elections, the group s leader said.
The arrests were the latest in an ongoing crackdown by the authorities on the group.
A security official said troops stormed the homes of senior Brotherhood members in five provinces, including Cairo, at dawn. The detained were arrested on charges of joining a banned group in an attempt to revive its activities, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
“They arrested every single person who seemed to them to be a potential candidate, said Mohamed Mahdi Akef, the Brotherhood leader.
The Brotherhood posted the names of the arrested on its website, saying the detentions sought to prevent the group from running in the April 8 city council elections.
But Akef said the Brotherhood will participate in the election despite the crackdown. “It s an obligation from God to serve the people, he told The Associated Press.
Long ignored and left to the ruling National Democratic Party, municipal elections have gained in importance following a 2005 constitutional amendments in the electoral law requiring parties to hold a certain number of municipal seats if they want to field a presidential candidate.
The group stunned the government by scoring large victories in the 2005 parliament elections, and as a result, President Hosni Mubarak issued a decree two years ago delaying the provincial elections, supposed to be in April 2006.
“These are political detentions aimed at influencing the group s decision to participate in the elections, senior Brotherhood member Essam El-Erian told The Associated Press. “They are arresting popular symbols of the group in each province.
Wednesday s arrests bring the number of Muslim Brotherhood members detained since the beginning of the year to over 600. Apart from Cairo, the arrests took place in southern Sohag, Qalyiubiya, Giza and Assuit.
On Monday, police had detained 13 university students affiliated with the Brotherhood in the coastal city of Alexandria as they collected money at the campus for the Brotherhood and to help Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The students were charged with belonging to a banned group and collecting money without permission.