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Friday, November 2, 2007       Free Headline Alerts

Egypt's crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood seen paving way for succession

CAIRO Egypt has launched an offensive meant to neutralize the Muslim Brotherhood, Middle East Newsline reported.

Opposition sources said Egypt has arrested more than 1,000 MB members, many of them senior operatives of the Islamic movement. The sources said the Egyptian campaign was meant to intimidate the Brotherhood leadership ahead of an effort by President Hosni Mubarak to transfer power to his son.

"Tyranny has reached unprecedented limits compared to any previous regime," Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef said. "This is insane tyranny."

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The crackdown has taken place ahead of the general conference by Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party in early November. The conference was the first since 2002 and meant to introduce counter-insurgency legislation. NDP has been battling the Brotherhood to select the next speaker of Egypt's parliament.

"With an eye to the future, NDP aims to strengthen democracy and the rights of all citizens in Egypt," said Mohammed Kamal, secretary of the NDP's political education and training. "At all levels of government -- from municipal to national -- delegates will be working to reinforce the building blocks of our civil society, our constitutional amendments, so we might elevate Egypt and its people to the global stage."

Officials said the Muslim Brotherhood, reported to number 200,000, has been preparing for a violent confrontation with the Mubarak regime. They said at least 200 MB members remain in prison.

At one point, at least five of the 12 members of the Brotherhood's Shura Council were imprisoned. Later, Egypt released two of the Islamic leaders amid concerns over their health.

"We may absorb a kick, but we will come back more powerful," Issam Arian, head of the Brotherhood's political division, said. Arian was released by Egyptian authorities in early October.

Egypt has also arrested two parliamentarians linked to the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood controls about 20 percent of Egypt's 444-member parliament.

A key arrest was that of suspected Brotherhood financier Kheirat Shater, regarded as the No. 3 member in the movement. Shater and 39 other Brotherhood members were charged with money-laundering and financing a banned group.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the arrests appeared to comprise a "broad crackdown on Egyptian rights activists, journalists and other government critics." The U.S. group cited an order to close the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, a group that assists torture victims, as well as the sentencing of journalists and bloggers.

The opposition has charged the Mubarak regime with violating civil rights and Egyptian law. The sources said Mubarak has ordered Brotherhood members tried in military courts after many of them were found not guilty by civilian courts.

The Brotherhood has been accused of helping spark the largest labor unrest in Egypt since the 1950s. In the city of Mahalla El Kobra, thousands of employees of the privatized Misr Spinning and Weaving Factory have gone on strike to protest low wages and soaring inflation.

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