Egypt Arrests 3 Top Muslim Brotherhood Leaders

By: Paul Schemm, Sarah El Deeb, & Maamoun Youssef - AP Writers
By: Paul Schemm, Sarah El Deeb, & Maamoun Youssef - AP Writers

CAIRO (AP) - The No. 2 leader of Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood and two other top figures were arrested by police Monday in a dawn sweep targeting members of the nation's most powerful opposition group.

The arrests, part of an ongoing crackdown, come as the group
recently chose a new leadership and ahead of parliamentary
elections set for October.

Police arrested the new deputy leader, Mahmoud Ezzat, and two
other members of the Guidance Council, Essam el-Erian and
Abdul-Rahman el-Bir.

A fourth member of the group's top level decision making body
was not home when police raided his house. At least 10 other
members were also arrested in the provinces Monday.

"These arrests will not prevent the Brotherhood from the path
it has chosen to achieve progress for the nation and it will
continue its struggle through all available peaceful means to
provide freedom and confront corruption and combat tyranny," the
group said in a statement.

The group suggested that the arrests were related to its support
for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the upcoming parliamentary
elections.

"This regime does not want a partner or a participant," in
running the country, said spokesman Mohamed Morsi, describing the
arrests as a continuation of the state's "pressure and
marginalization of the whole nation."

Morsi said the arrests wouldn't alter plans to participate in
October's parliamentary elections.

Morsi said the men have not yet been charged and are awaiting
interrogation. Police said they face charges of engaging in banned
political activity - a standard government charge used against the
group.

The London-based Amnesty International said the men arrested are
considered "prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their
peaceful political activities." The human rights watchdog called
on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.

It also urged the UN Human Rights Council, which is to
scrutinize Egypt's human rights record later this month, to give
attention to the authorities' continued misuse of emergency powers
that allow for arbitrary and prolonged detentions to quash
opposition at home. The emergency laws have been in place for
nearly three decades.

The Brotherhood was banned in 1954 but is occasionally tolerated
by the state. Its candidates are allowed to run for parliament as
independents and in 2005 won 20 percent of the seats, making them
Egypt's largest opposition bloc.

"The regime wanted to express its opinion to the new leaders by
punishing them and tightening the noose on the old ones,"
Abdel-Gelil al-Shernouby, who runs the group's Web site, told The
Associated Press.

The move comes just weeks after the movement selected a new
supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, to great fanfare and media
attention. He immediately embarked on a round of meetings with
various intellectuals and opposition figures in the country.

"In the last few days after Mohammed Badie's accession, there
has been a kind of media offensive in which he made various
declarations and met many people," said Diaa Rashwan, an expert on
the Islamist movements.

"I think (the arrests) are a kind of intimidation of them ...
it is a kind of (government) offensive," he suggested, though he
didn't expect the day-to-day work of the organization to be overly
affected.

The men taken come from different tendencies in the movement,
with Ezzat a powerful conservative and el-Erian known for a more
pragmatic approach favoring cooperation with other political
groups.

Within a year of the Brotherhood's dramatic win of a fifth of
the parliament seats in the 2005 election, the government launched
a wide-ranging crackdown against the group, including the arrest of
Khayrat el-Shater, the group's third-ranking member, who works as
the chief strategist and financier.

In October, Egypt's Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, who runs
the nation's powerful security apparatus, predicted the group would
not repeat their election successes in the 2010 parliamentary
contest.

In elections for municipal councils and parliament's upper house
following the 2005 vote, election officials disqualified
Brotherhood candidates from running.

The Muslim Brotherhood advocates an Islamic state in Egypt,
implementing Islamic law. Moderates in the Brotherhood feel that
rather than insisting on an Islamic state, it should be a party for
promoting Islamic values in a democratic system.


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