Egypt arrests over 100 Muslim Brotherhood members

CAIRO (AP) — Police arrested 105 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group in the past two days, including two candidates competing in upcoming parliamentary elections, the group and police officials said Wednesday.

The arrests were part of an ongoing crackdown that has intensified in the lead up to elections for the upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council. The brotherhood has announced it has fielded 19 candidates in the June 11 elections.

Police arrested 81 members of the group in several provinces Wednesday, including 54 in Fayoum, 80 kilometres southwest of Cairo, and 20 in Menoufia, 60 kilometres north of Cairo, said the group’s lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud. He added that 24 members of the brotherhood were arrested Tuesday in Cairo and Giza.

Police officials confirmed the arrests, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media. Detained brotherhood members are often charged with belonging to an illegal group.

“We’re expecting many more arrests leading up to Monday elections,” Abdel Maksoud told the Associated Press Wednesday. “Brotherhood members in prison have exceeded 600,” he added.

Abdel Maksoud said the two candidates for Shura Council elections who were arrested were from Fayoum and Gharbeya, located some 100 kilometres north of Cairo.

The upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council, was established in 1979 as an advisory body, but gained limited legislative powers from the recent constitutional amendments.

The brotherhood has been banned since 1954 but has continued to operate and is Egypt’s most powerful opposition movement. Its lawmakers, who run as independents, hold 88 seats in the 454-seat parliament.

The brotherhood advocates implementation of Islamic law but says it wants democratic reforms in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak, 79, has had a quarter-century of authoritarian rule.

The government accuses the group of seeking to take over the country and passed a series of constitutional amendments in March that further curtailed the brotherhood’s ability to participate in politics.

The recent crackdown against brotherhood members, including leading figures, started in December when brotherhood students carried out a military-like parade.

That prompted government accusations that the movement was forming an armed wing, providing students with combat training, knives and chains. The group denies forming a militia.

A military trial of 40 top brotherhood figures on terrorism and money laundering charges began in late April, one of the largest such tribunals in years. International human rights groups and journalists were banned from attending the trial’s most recent session held Tuesday.

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