The Egyptian government has intensified its arrest campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood ahead of elections to the upper house of parliament, Human Rights Watch said today, as the organization released video interviews with former Brotherhood detainees.
According to lawyers for the group, between May 12 and 19, 2007, security forces arrested 87 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is Egypt’s largest opposition group, despite being banned since 1954. Sixty-four came from districts where the group is fielding candidates in the June 11 elections to the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament. On May 28, police arrested three candidates running as independents, but affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, from the Nile Delta town of Mit Ghamr.
“In the week Egypt boasted about its election to the UN Human Rights Council, it was arresting scores of people solely for exercising their right to free association and free speech,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division.
Human Rights Watch today released video interviews with eight Muslim Brotherhood members recounting earlier detentions. In the interviews, they describe torture and abuse suffered at the hands of security forces and their sentencing by military courts.
Human Rights Watch also listed the names of 223 members of the Muslim Brotherhood currently imprisoned for attempting to exercise their rights to freedom of association and expression. Human Rights Watch has collected names of more than 1,000 members of the group detained between March 2006 and March 2007.
The current escalation of arrests coincides with the military trial of 33 members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which is scheduled to resume at a base outside Cairo on June 3. Those being tried, on charges of terrorism and money-laundering, include Khairat al-Shatir, the organization’s deputy supreme guide, who was arrested on December 14, 2006, along with 16 other prominent Muslim Brotherhood members in predawn raids. On January 29, 2007, a Cairo criminal court dismissed all charges against al-Shatir and his co-defendants, and ordered their immediate release. Police re-arrested the men moments after the ruling, and on February 4, President Hosni Mubarak, ignoring the court’s finding, ordered the cases transferred to a military court.
The Egyptian government has never convincingly justified its continued ban of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has renounced violence for more than 30 years. Human Rights Watch called on the government to lift the ban, and to cease arresting people solely for their alleged membership in the organization.
“Egyptians can and do debate the sincerity and extent of the Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to democracy, but the government’s repression of the group flouts fundamental human rights and freedoms,” Stork said.