Security services arrested 15 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) opposition group in different provinces Sunday, including group Deputy General Guide Mahmoud Ezzat and MB Guidance Bureau members Essam el-Erian and Abdel Rahman el-Barr.
According to MB spokesman Saad el-Katatni, the arrests aim to weaken the group and prevent it from participating in upcoming parliamentary elections slated for later this year.
"The government will never succeed in marginalizing us or our political role," said MB Second Deputy General Guide Rashad el-Bayoumy.
MB lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud said the crackdown was unjustified. "I expect more arrests by the end of the day," he said.
Guidance Bureau member Mohamed Morsi, for his part, vowed that the latest round of arrests "will not divert us from our peaceful path."
In a statement issued following the arrests, the MB called for the immediate release of its leaders, along with the release of all members to have been sent to prison by military courts for their beliefs. The statement called instead for the imprisonment of those it described as "the plunderers of Egypt’s wealth."
The statement went on to assert that group leaders had been arrested for the MB’s support of the Palestinian cause and the besieged people of the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.
It also called on international human rights organizations to pressure the Egyptian regime to refrain from using its sweeping security powers to stamp out political opposition. The group also lashed out at the local press for tarnishing its reputation by writing false reports about the MB and its activities.
According to political analyst Hassan Nafea, the regime is attempting to intimidate the group in retaliation for recent statements made by the new MB general guide, Mohamed Badie, about a possible alliance with other Egyptian political forces.
Amr el-Shobki, expert on Islamic movements, said the regime was going out of its way to weaken the group. "The regime doesn’t want to destroy it completely, though, so as to avoid adverse consequences," he said.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.