By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt – On February 26, an Egyptian court delayed delivering the verdict for a case involving 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The court postponed the verdict until March 25, one week after the nominations for the upcoming local elections. According to the brotherhood, the court’s delay was politically motivated.
The municipal elections were scheduled for April 2006 but were postponed after members of the Muslim Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in the parliamentary elections in 2005. It is speculated that group will win a landslide victory if its leaders are allowed to participate in the local elections scheduled for April 8.
In the past, the local councils have had relatively little power in national politics. However, constitutional amendments in 2005 require that presidential candidates obtain 140 recommendations city councils before they could run. If the Muslim Brotherhood wins enough seats in the local elections on April 8, they could challenge Mubarak for the presidency in the next presidential election.
Of the 40 defendants, 33 have been held since their arrest December 2006 and the other seven are being tried in absentia. The defendants are being tried by a military tribunal for charges of money laundering and terrorism. Earlier, an appeals court held that the defendants should be tried in a civilian court, but the state overturned the decision and the military tribunal resumed last year.
On February 24, nearly 2,500 students, most of whom are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, protested the trial. At Ain Shams University, in Cairo, and al-Azhar University, in Assiut, students shouted anti-government slogans and condemned the trial. Also, when the postponement was announced, several hundred protesters gathered outside the court at the Haekstep military base.
In the past two weeks, over 250 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested. Many of those arrested are potential candidates in the local elections. In total, the group claims that over 600 of its members are imprisoned. Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, an influential Brotherhood member, warned that there could be up to 10,000 arrests by the time polls close on election day.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, has been banned in Egypt since 1954. The organization is the current government’s greatest opposition. The Egyptian police officials state the many of the recent detainees were arrested under suspicion of being members of the banned group.
For more information, please see:
AHN – Egyptian Protesters Angered at Military Trial Verdict Delay – 27 February 2008
Al Jazeera – Egypt Accused of Delay Tactic – 27 February 2008
Reuters – Egypt Delays Brotherhood Verdict and Arrests 17 – 26 February 2008
International Herald Tribune – Over 2,000 Egyptian University Students Protest Against Islamist Leaders’ Military Trial – 24 February 2008
International Herald Tribune – Muslim Brotherhood Says Egypt’s Government Trying to Block it from Key Local Elections – 21 February 2008
BBC – Egypt Detains Brotherhood Members – 20 February 2008
CNN – Egyptian Security Forces Raid Muslim Brotherhood – 20 February 2008
Jurist – Egypt Police Arrest 70 more Muslim Brotherhood Candidates Ahead of Local Elections – 20 February 2008