The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation by the cabinet on Wednesday evening.
Following its weekly meeting, the cabinet announced that the organisation will be legally accountable under Article 86 of the Egyptian Penal Code .
The decision comes in the wake of an explosion that occurred in the Al-Daqahleya Security Directorate on Monday, resulting in the death of 16 people and the injury of more than 100. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s condemnation of the attack and the lack of evidence linking the bombing to the organisation, various parties have held the Brotherhood accountable for the attack.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi referred to the 23 September court ruling which banned the Muslim Brotherhood, saying that the state would implement the ruling “rigorously.”
Director of Alhaqanya Law Centre Mohamed Abdel Aziz said, “accusing any person or organisation of being a terrorist is a decision made by the judicial authority only after evidence is found, according to Article 86 of the Penal Code.”
“This decision does not have any legal basis, [which should be] in the form of prosecution’s investigations,” he added. Abdel Aziz continued to say that there is only a “political basis” for this decision.
He believes that outside Egypt, the decision will pen the Brotherhood’s name onto terror lists. Inside Egypt, however, Aziz does not expect the decision to affect Brotherhood members on a legal level.
Article 86 of the Penal Code stipulates that terrorism “shall include all use of force, violence, threatening, or frightening, which a felon resorts to in execution of an individual or collective criminal scheme, with the aim of disturbing public order, or exposing the safety and security of society to danger”.
Members of an organisation deemed terrorist by the government will face a sentence not exceeding five years in prison.
Article 86(A) and (B) stipulate that the death penalty will be issued if terrorism is one of the methods used in executing the purposes called for by the association, corporation, organisation, or group. Members of the organisation who have coerced other individuals to join the said organisation or stopped them from leaving will receive a life sentence.
The aforementioned article was amended on 4 September by the current government to add different penalties and expand the meaning of terrorism.
The decision has been described by Wafaa Al-Banna, acting spokeswoman of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “media stunt”, adding that the interim government lacks any proof needed to implicate the Brotherhood in terrorist activities.
Al-Banna, added that the decree changes nothing. “The implications of the decision have been in effect even before the dispersal of the [pro-Mohamed Morsi] Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in,” which was forcibly dispersed on 14 August.
Al-Banna accused the authorities of wanting to drag the [pro-Morsi] protesters to violence, “when the protesters failed them, they declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation anyways.”
“There is no way for the scenarios which were implemented in the 1950s to work in the 21st century,” Al-Banna added, in reference to the repressive measures of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser against the Brotherhood.
The Anti-Coup Alliance said that the decision is irrelevant and they will persist in their struggle.
“It’s like nothing happened,” said official Spokesman for the Alliance Hamza Zoba’a.
Meanwhile, Tamara Al-Rifai Advocacy and Communications Director for the Middle East and North Africa division said, “as an organisation, we are against holding an entire group responsible for something collectively. We believe in individual responsibility”.
There are, however, political groups that rejoiced at the decision.
Hassan Shahin, founding member and spokesman of the Tamarod (rebellion) campaign, applauded the decision, describing it as “waging war on the Muslim Brotherhood and on terrorism as a whole”.
“This decision should have been made a long time ago,” he said. “The Muslim Brotherhood has been considered a terrorist organisation throughout its history”.
Shahin denied that the decision would resurrect the former President Hosni Mubarak’s “police state”, and accused the Brotherhood of “instigating violence” on university campuses. “The Brotherhood is insistent on challenging the state and the people and stalling the roadmap,” Shahin said. “They refused to take part in the roadmap, in the Constituent Assembly which amended the constitution and in the elections”.
Atef Adly, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party’s executive media secretariat, said that the party has long been calling on the interim government to declare the Brotherhood a terrorist group, and expressed his wish for “the decision to be implemented as soon as possible”.
“Any act of terror which takes place in Egypt is related to the Muslim Brotherhood whether directly or indirectly,” Adly said. “At least now if someone announces they are Brotherhood members they would be automatically considered terrorists.”
Spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party Shehab Wagih said the decision “is late”. He added that the implementation of the current law and monitoring of the “hate speech by the Muslim Brotherhood” was more important than the simple issuance of the decision.
Beblawi also said on Tuesday that “terrorism has social, political, ethical, and legal aspects,” adding that “[Tuesday’s] incident is terrorism in all these aspects and the law will take its course.”
The prime minister added, “we will not compromise with anyone.”