CAIRO: Security forces arrested five Muslim Brotherhood (MB) “leaders” from their homes in Alexandria at 12 pm Wednesday in an escalation of the government’s crackdown on the group before the upcoming parliamentary elections.
“This is an attempt to terrorize the Brotherhood before the elections,” spokesman of the group’s parliamentary bloc and candidate, Hamdy Hassan, told Daily News Egypt.
“Before [the MB announced its participation] in the elections, we had only four or five detained members. Now we have around 164.”
The MB has identified the five detainees as MB “leaders.” According to the group’s lawyer, Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud, the five detained MB leaders are Mohamed Shehata, Hesham Rashed, Dr. Samir Al-Malhi, Hussein Abdel Razik and Reda Abdou.
“The names of the Brotherhood members who have been detained aren’t well known to the media or the people,” Hossam Tammam, a researcher of Islamist movements, told Daily News Egypt. The group’s description for them as leaders may be an attempt “to escalate [the significance of] the news to grab more media attention.”
Tammam added that the criterion the MB uses to establish its leadership isn’t clear; the term “leader” could refer to a role as high-profile as leadership of the organization itself, or a role as general as participation in the elections.
According to Hassan, the detainees are not Members of Parliament and are not candidates in the parliamentary elections scheduled for Nov. 28.
According to Abdel-Maqsoud, the detainees were not officially charged with committing a crime, and were not presented to the prosecution at the time of press. “They will probably be charged with joining a banned group. That’s the charge [the Egyptian authorities] always use,” Abdel-Maqsoud told Daily News Egypt.
“They will be presented to the prosecution [on Wednesday evening],” he added.
“The government thinks these arrests will obstruct the Brotherhood and its candidates in the coming elections, but they’re wrong,” Abdel-Maqsoud said.
On Tuesday, 70 members of the brotherhood were detained while hanging election posters advocating the MB candidates; they were charged with being members of a banned group, according to Abdel-Maqsoud.
Hassan stated that the government’s crackdown on the MB will “definitely” continue until the elections begin next month.
Tammam agreed, but added that it will not “force the Brotherhood to withdraw from the parliamentary elections.”
“Although the regime doesn’t want the Brotherhood to repeat [its] 2005 win, they still want the Brotherhood to compete in the elections,” he added.
Tammam said that the regime wants to preserve the image of free and fair elections, which includes the participation of opposition groups.
“Most of the coming arrests will focus on active participants in the Brotherhood’s election campaign, including MP assistants, campaign managers, and coordinators — not brotherhood leaders,” Tammam said.
The MB is considered a banned group under Egyptian law. However, they publicly practice in political activities and run in the parliamentary elections as independent candidates.
In 2005, the MB won 88 seats — almost 20 percent of the 445 seats — as independents. That political accomplishment established the MB as the largest opposition party within a parliament largely dominated by members of the ruling National Democratic Party.