Dozens detained in Egyptian pre-election crackdown on opposition
Amnesty International today called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release, or charge with a recognizable criminal offence, more than 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood group arrested this week. More than 150 people have been arrested since the Muslim Brotherhood chairman, Mohamed Badie', said on 9 October that the group will put up candidates in Egypt's parliamentary elections, scheduled for 29 November. About half of those arrested have been released. The 70 still held include supporters of Muslim Brotherhood election candidates and several regional leaders of the organization, including, Mohamed Sweidan of Baheira, whose detention was on Monday extended for 15 days, Mustafa al-Khouli and Essam al-Gharbawi. "Those arrested appear to be detained solely on account of their association with the Muslim Brotherhood organization," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa. "The arrests appear intended to disrupt Muslim Brotherhood campaigning and deter people from supporting the organization in the coming elections." The arrests were made across 17 Egyptian regions including Baheira, Qina, Aswan, Sharqiya, and Alexandria. "If the forthcoming elections are to be fair and credible, the Egyptian government must ensure that they are conducted on a ‘level playing field’ and uphold the rights to freedom of association of all candidates and their supporters," said Malcolm Smart. The Muslim Brotherhood has been officially banned in Egypt since 1954. However, it has continued to operate openly and leaders and supporters of the organization have stood as independent candidates in previous parliamentary elections, in many cases successfully. It has wide popular support and is generally seen as the main rival to Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party.