CAIRO: Prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood including its Deputy Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat and members of its Guidance Office were arrested in raids before dawn on Monday.
Along with the newly appointed Ezzat, newly appointed members to the Guidance Office Essam El-Erian and Abdurahman Al-Barr were also taken, as well as group leaders from various governorates.
There were 14 arrests in all and they are being held in three separate locations, but these locations are not known. Arrests were also carried out in Alexandria, Giza, Sharqiya and Assuit.
According to the group’s website, authorities also raided the house of another Guidance Office member, Muhi Hamid, but he was not home at the time.
“These arrests are unjustified and illegal and coming right before the Shoura Council elections and the parliamentary and presidential elections, so this seems to indicate that it’s related, head of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc Hussein Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt.
Egypt is due to hold the Shoura (Advisory) Council elections in April. The elections for the People’s Assembly are due in October and presidential elections are to be held in 2011.
“We hope the Egyptian people refuse the message of this crackdown because the Brotherhood have the right to pursue their civil and personal rights, Ibrahim added.
The group is considered illegal by the state, but enjoys wide popularity and a parliamentary presence that makes them the biggest opposition bloc in the People’s Assembly, although officially they are independents.
Since winning one-fifth of the PA seats in 2005, the group has suffered repeated crackdowns at the hands of the state and some of their more prominent members, like Mohamed Khayrat El-Shater, are serving prison sentences for financing and belonging to a banned group.
The Muslim Brotherhood have recently gone through an acrimonious process in selecting a new Supreme Guide and Guidance Office which saw former Deputy Supreme Guide Mohamed Habib leave the group in protest.
Last month, Mohamed Badie was picked as the new Supreme Guide of the group to replace Mohamed Mahdi Akef. The Guidance Office – which is the group’s highest authority and headed by the Supreme Guide – was appointed a few weeks before.
The new appointments were perceived as a power struggle between moderates and hardliners, with the hardliners seemingly winning after Ezzat was appointed the Deputy Supreme Guide and the most prominent moderate Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh was excluded from the new Guidance Office.
Only El-Erian was appointed to the Guidance Office from the camp that was considered moderate.
“The arrests won’t affect our persistence to exercise our rights that are guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution, Ibrahim said.