Egypt Cracks Down on Pro-Reform Muslim Brotherhood
|Sunday, June 24,2007 16:27|
|By Hamdy Al Husseini|
Despite the arrest of at least 55 members, including leading figures, several thousand members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood took part in three demonstrations in Cairo Sunday, March 27, calling for constitutional reforms and the lifting of restrictive emergency laws.
The main demonstration, consisting of 1,000 people according to authorities and 3,000 according to organizers, took place on the central Ramses Square after tight security measures prevented them getting to parliament, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“End the state of emergency,” the demonstrators shouted, calling also for non American interference in Egyptian affairs.
The two other gatherings, involving 200 to 300 people each, took place in the central Bab El-Luk and Sayyeda Zeinab districts, authorities said.
Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood Guide-General Mohammed Mahdi Akef called for the demonstration during a press conference on constitutional reforms proposed by President Hosni Mubarak to allow multi-candidate presidential elections.
Hours before the demonstration, thousands of the Egyptian riot police lined roads in central Cairo to stop the demonstrators from gathering in front of parliament.
Street demonstrations are banned in Egypt under the emergency laws that have been in place since president Anwar al-Sadat"s assassination in 1981.
Civil servants were ordered to go home after key government ministries and institutions in downtown Cairo near the parliament seat were shut down, says IslamOnline.net’s Correspondent.
Armed-to-the-teeth security forces denied citizens access to government facilities in the area, drawing the wrath of many.
In such case, a mother holding a sick child was prevented from reaching a hospital in the area.
Fighting back her tears, the mother cursed the security forces and the regime that stood in her way of seeking medical treatment for a sick baby.
Traffic in the heart of the Egyptian capital was brought to a standstill after the authorities poured thousands of security forces into the streets to block the demonstration.
After painstaking efforts, security commanders allowed the group"s deputy guide-general to hand over a statement to the security personnel of the People"s Assembly.
Dozens of the Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested by Egyptian security forces to block the planed demonstration.
“The authorities had arrested six members of the group who were trying to attend the protest and detained a further 49 of the protest organizers,” Essam El-Erian, a leading Brotherhood member, told Reuters.
The arrests were made in Cairo, two provinces north of the capital and in Fayoum, a one-hour drive southwest of Cairo.
Abdel Mone"m Aboul Fotouh, a senior Brotherhood member, was arrested in his Cairo office Sunday.
“We have received a phone call from him telling us that he was arrested by the security forces,” Aboul Fotouh"s son told IslamOnline.net.
“It seems he was already in police custody and some one was trying to shut him up. Then his mobile was out of service.”
The Doha-based Al-Jazeera news television later said that Aboul Fotouh, also the secretary of the Arab Doctors Union, was released.
“The Communists organized a demonstration, the "Enough Movement"... had a demonstration ... so why this with us?,” Akef told Reuters on Sunday.
The authorities have tolerated a series of demonstrations since December against an extension of the rule of Mubarak.
But Cairo Security Director Major-General Nabil El-Arabi said the authorities had decided not to allow Sunday"s protest and would block another demonstration calling for political reform planned for Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Mubarak is currently serving his fourth uncontested six-year term as president.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned since 1954, has 16 deputies in Egypt ’s 454-member parliament, making it the main opposition force in Egypt.