Prosecutors begin investigating arrested MB leaders

The Supreme State Prosecution Tuesday began its investigation of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group leaders arrested one day earlier, including MB First Deputy Guide Mahmoud Ezzat and MB Guidance Bureau members Essam el-Erian and Abdel Rahman el-Barr. Another bureau member, Mohi Hamed, reportedly turned himself in after learning he was wanted by prosecutors.

The defendants have been charged with leading a "banned group" that works against the regime and "threatens peace and security" by promoting "extremist ideas."

In a precedent, prosecutors also charged defendants with leading a faction within the MB that adheres to the takfiri doctrines of group founder Sayed Qutb, which deems those Muslims that do not follow it to be apostates from the religion. This doctrine, according to prosecutors, also supports the formation of military wings in order to carry out armed resistance operations against the regime.

The defendants declined to give any statements during the investigation.

MB members converged outside the prosecution’s Cairo headquarters Tuesday, which was surrounded by security forces.

Prosecutors allowed another defendant, Mohamed Elewa, to be taken to hospital for heart surgery, after which they will resume investigating his role in the group.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International, meanwhile, called on Egyptian authorities to ease their crackdown against the MB, considered the largest opposition movement in the country. In a statement Tuesday, the rights organization described the defendants as "prisoners of conscience" and requested their immediate release, noting that the regime was exploiting a longstanding emergency law to suppress peaceful political opposition.

In a statement, Amnesty International also urged the UN Human Rights Council to closely monitor Egypt, especially since the UN was scheduled to discuss an annual report on Egypt’s human rights record on 17 February.

The rights group further warned the government against banning the MB from participating in upcoming parliamentary elections slated for later this year. In the last parliamentary elections in 2005, the group captured 88 seats in parliament, representing roughly one-fifth of the assembly.

For its part, American daily newspaper The Wall Street Journal reported that Egyptian authorities had arrested group leaders for criticizing the government’s role in the longstanding Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas since 2007. In December, reports emerged that Egypt was building a subterranean wall along its 14-kilometer border with the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of halting smuggling operations.

In a related development Tuesday in the northern province of Beheira, a court released eight MB members–who had each been detained for five days on similar charges–pending bail payments of LE10,000 each. The men refrained from posting bail, however, prompting prosecutors to remand them once again into custody.

In the canal city of Suez, meanwhile, MB members staged protests against the ongoing detention of 25 colleagues despite the expiration of court-ordered detention periods.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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