Egypt detains 247 Brotherhood members after protests

Egyptian security forces have detained 247 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's most powerful opposition group, in several provinces, security sources said on Wednesday.

Egypt detains 247 Brotherhood members after protests
The men were detained in sweeps on Tuesday and Wednesday in the provinces of Beheira, Gharbia, Qalyoubia and Alexandria on suspicion of "resisting the authorities" after taking part in protests by several thousand Brotherhood members.

The Brotherhood protests were against government efforts to stop the Brotherhood from running in April 8 local elections.

Prosecutors ordered 162 of the men to be held for 15 days on suspicion of membership in an illegal organisation and protesting without a permit. The Brotherhood's Web site said five of the men detained were candidates in the upcoming vote.

The remaining 85 were still being questioned, the security source said, while another 8 had been detained and released.

Eleven members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood were injured on Tuesday when police used rubber bullets, tear gas and batons to disperse thousands of Brotherhood protesters in six provinces.

The state-run newspaper al-Akhbar said on Wednesday that Interior Minister Habib el-Adli had warned that "any attempt at trouble-making or incitement will be confronted decisively".

In the past few weeks, Egyptian courts have issued hundreds of rulings obliging the government to accept the candidacy of members of the Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood say authorities have ignored these rulings.

The courts then issued scores of rulings ordering a halt to the elections in a number of provinces because of the authorities' refusal to comply, but there is no indication those rulings will be implemented either.

Egyptian police have rounded up several hundred members of the group in recent weeks in the run-up to the council vote, including at least 148 would-be candidates.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has called the recent arrests a "shameless bid" to fix the elections, in which the Brotherhood is running against the ruling National Democratic Party.

The Interior Ministry has repeatedly declined to comment.

The Brotherhood seeks an Islamic state through democratic means.

Seats on local councils could be important for the Brotherhood on a national level if it wants to field an independent candidate in a future presidential election.

Independent candidates for the presidency need endorsements from 140 members of local councils as well as support from members of both houses of parliament.

The government calls the Muslim Brotherhood a banned organisation but the group operates openly and holds a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament through members elected as independents.

Agencies
Last Mod: 03 Nisan 2008, 11:48
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