Egypt steps up Brotherhood sweeps, scores held

Egypt arrested scores of members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday, stepping up sweeps targeting likely Brotherhood candidates in local council elections due in April, the Brotherhood said.

Egypt steps up Brotherhood sweeps, scores held
The Islamist group, Egypt's strongest opposition force, said 68 Brotherhood men were picked up in raids that coincided with the start of a 10-day registration period for candidates wishing to contest the April 8 vote.

"Some were arrested from their homes and some as they were going to register as candidates. They are doing this to prevent them from registering for the elections," a Brotherhood spokesman said.

The local councils where seats are at stake in the April vote hold little real power, but seats could be important nationally if the Brotherhood wants to qualify to field an independent candidate for the presidency in the future.

Egyptian security sources put the number of those arrested on Tuesday at 80, and said they were accused of belonging to an illegal organisation and distributing anti-government literature.

The Brotherhood seeks an Islamic state through democratic means. It holds a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament through members elected as independents to circumvent a decades-old ban.

Egypt has detaining well over 300 Brotherhood members since mid-February. Tuesday's arrests bring the total number held to more than 700, the group said.

The Brotherhood spokesman said those detained on Tuesday were all likely candidates in the council elections, and were picked up in sweeps spanning the country, from Qena in the south to Alexandria on the northern Mediterranean coast.

Egypt postponed local council elections for two years in 2006 after the Brotherhood performed better than expected in a parliamentary election in 2005.

Independent candidates for the presidency need endorsements from 140 members of local councils to run, in addition to support from members of the upper and lower houses of parliament.

Reuters
Last Mod: 04 Mart 2008, 15:46
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