2011-01-28 Cable: Political arrests of Muslim Brotherhood

US State cable 2010-02-11 10CAIRO197 from one year ago, discusses the arrest on the morning of February 8, of three high-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau (the group's 16-member administrative body) along with twelve other lower ranking members

The group includes newly-named Deputy Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, MB spokesman (one of three recently-named spokesmen for the group) Essam El Eryan, and MB "Mufti" (or religious leader) Abdel Rahman El Barr. A fourth member of the Guidance Bureau, Mohie Hamed, avoided arrest. According to Ikhwanweb, the MB's English-language website, Hamed has been ordered to appear before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor. One of the twelve other MB detainees arrested along with them has reportedly been transferred to a hospital for heart surgery following a heart attack during his arrest. MB sources have reported to the media that those detained have declined to give any statements to investigators. These latest high-profile arrests come amid continued reports of arrests of dozens of rank and file MB members outside of Cairo reportedly as they gather in preparation for elections of the MB's 100-man Shura Council (the group's legislative body) scheduled for April 2010.

No formal charges have been announced by the Public Prosecutor. MB Parliamentary Bloc leader and Spokesman Saad Katatni told PolOff on February 10 that the group was originally detained, and their homes searched, under the Emergency Law (Ref A), but said he expected any "investigation" or "prosecution" would be conducted according to the criminal code. Katatni said lawyers for the detained have been told they will be given access by the Prosecutor to the "investigative file" against the group next Tuesday February 16. According to media reports the group remains in detention "under investigation" for the next 15 days (this can be renewed several times for a period of up to six months by the Prosecutor himself). Charges under investigation include belonging to a "banned" organization that threatens the "peace and security of the state," a charge commonly made against detained members of the MB. For the first time members of the group have been charged with participation in a faction of the MB that adheres to the "takfiri" or "un-Islamic" doctrine of Sayed Qutb, which deems those who do not follow it "infidels" and thus, according to the Public Prosecutor, supports the formation of a military wing that would carry out armed resistance against the regime. (Note: Qutb was executed by former President Nasser in 1966 for having led an attempt to violently overthrow the regime. Both current Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and now arrested Deputy Guide Ezzat were detained in 1965 along with Qutb. They were later released by President Anwar Sadat. End Note.)

Previous Muslim Brotherhood Arrests

There is a precedent for long detentions of MB leaders while "under investigation." Three other high-ranking members of the MB's Guidance Bureau, including Dr. Abdel Meneim Al Fotouh, were detained for several months in 2009 while "under investigation." (Ref B) While all three have been released on bail, the cases against them are still pending (Ref C). (Note: Fotouh was released in November 2009 and subsequently lost his seat on the MB's Guidance Bureau in December elections (Ref D). End Note).

Reports of the arrests first surfaced the morning of February 8 on the MB's English-language website Ikhwanweb. The following day (February 9) Ikhwanweb published an MB statement condemning the arrests. In the statement the group said it believed the arrests were linked to MB support for "the resistance of the besieged people of Gaza" and are intended to "undermine participation by the group ahead of the legislative elections later this year." The MB also affirmed that despite the arrests it will continue on its "missionary course" and the "path (it has) chosen for attaining the country's welfare" through "peaceful reformist methods despite ... restrictions paced to liberties." MB members were reportedly present in large numbers outside the offices of the Public Prosecutor on Tuesday February 9. The group also staged a small protest in Suez against the ongoing detention of other MB members despite the end of their court-ordered detention period.

A Pre-emptive Strike

MB lawyer Abdel Menem Abdel Maqsoud told the independent daily El Shorouk that he believed the GOE targeted MB "organizational leaders" like former MB Secretary General and now Deputy Guide Mahmoud Ezzat to hamper preparations for the Shura Council elections in June 2010 and the People's Assembly elections in November 2010. He added that the level of the arrests sent the message that no one was immune. Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies analyst Amr El Choubaki called the arrests a "pre-emptive strike to foil" MB election preparations.

According to political commentator, University Professor, and head of the "Coalition Against Succession" Hassan Nafaa, the arrests also were part of an effort to stop any potential coordination between the MB and other opposition political groups in the lead-up to the elections. Before the arrests, Democratic Front Party XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed to PolOff press reports that he and others were working with various political movements, including the MB, to form a unified national coalition under the banner of a "Conference for All Egyptians." XXXXXXXXXXXX was surprised the intended conference had surfaced in the media after he and fellow organizer, XXXXXXXXXXXX, had taken pains to "quietly plan" for months. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed the MB would be part of the effort. reporting on plans for an "All Egyptians" conference was included in press articles covering a February 3 event held by the Press Syndicate's Freedom Committee (headed by known MB member Mohamed Abdel Quddous) entitled the "Future of Egypt." At the conference, which included among others an NDP MP and Harb, the now arrested Essam El Eryan reportedly told the group that the MB was willing to "make compromises for the sake of having a national coalition" to pursue "comprehensive reform."