Egypt's Brotherhood to contest elections from jail

Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood vowed on Wednesday to contest local council elections due in April from behind bars, and security forces detained 41 more Brotherhood Islamists ahead of the vote.

Egypt's Brotherhood to contest elections from jail
The Brotherhood said those detained were picked up in sweeps coinciding with a 10-day registration period for candidates wishing to take part in the elections. Most of the detainees were likely candidates in the April 8 vote, it said.

"Brotherhood detainees are intent on entering the local council elections," the Brotherhood's deputy leader Mohamed Habib said in a statement, complaining of an arrests campaign that was "targeting Brotherhood candidates in all provinces".

"These detainees have started taking the necessary legal steps to complete the papers and to proceed with nomination procedures from behind bars," he added.

Egypt stepped up an arrests campaign in recent weeks against the Brotherhood, Egypt's strongest opposition force. Egypt has detained more than 350 Brotherhood members since mid-February and is holding a total of more than 730, the group says.

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.

Under a constitutional amendment passed 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.

House raids, street arrests

The Brotherhood says those arrested on Wednesday were detained in dawn house raids or picked up from streets in the eastern provinces of Suez and Ismailia and in Menoufia in the Nile Delta, where the Islamist group has a strong popular base.

Egyptian security sources confirmed Wednesday's arrests, but put the number held at 26. They said the men were accused of belonging to a banned group and holding secret anti-government meetings.

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.

While Habib did not say how many candidates would attempt to enter the elections from jail, the Brotherhood's Ikhwanweb Web site named four detainees who it said had formally announced their intent to do so including Ahmed Rami, a board member in the pharmacists' syndicate.

Habib said potential candidates were motivated by "a desire for democratic and peaceful change and reform" and to combat what he described as "widespread corruption" on the councils.

Abdel Moniem Abdel Maqsoud, a Brotherhood lawyer, said in remarks published on the Ikhwanweb site that potential candidates arrested in recent days would be eligible to take part in the council elections because "they are not referred to a trial or charged with immoral behaviour".

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

Reuters
Last Mod: 06 Mart 2008, 11:27
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