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Egypt: Arrests of Muslim Brotherhood Members and Supporters

In the last two weeks, hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egypt’s deposed President, Mohamed Morsi, have been rounded-up and are facing accusations of inciting or participating in violence. At least nine leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies are currently in prison and facing a number of charges linked to the violent events that have unfolded in Egypt since June 30, the beginning of mass protests opposing Mohamed Morsi. They include the Muslim Brotherhood’s former General Guide, Mohamed Mahdi Akef; Deputy General Guides Khairat al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumi; the Head of the Freedom and Justice Party, Saad al-Katatni; as well as leading Muslim Brotherhood member Helmi el-Gazzar and Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdelmonim Abdelmaqsud. Those detained also include prominent allies of the Muslim Brotherhood: Salafi politician Hazem Salah Abu Ismail; Islamist television presenter Khaled Abdallah; and former MP Mohamed al-Oumda.

As to the ousted President and his aides, they have been held incommunicado since July 3, 2013, amid a lack of transparency regarding their whereabouts or the legal basis of their detention. Arrest warrants have also been issued for other prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including its current General Guide, Mohamed Badie, on accusations that they were involved in the violent clashes between Mohamed Morsi’s supporters and opponents that have taken place since June 30, 2013. Hundreds of alleged supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood have also been arrested and face investigation in the context of the ongoing political turmoil, most notably the violence in front of the Republican Guard Club in Cairo on July 8, 2013. Most were released on bail a few days after their arrest. Some reported they were beaten during arrest and interrogated while blindfolded by men they believed to be members of National Security Agency, an intelligence agency under the Ministry of Interior formed after the State Security Investigations service was disbanded in 2011. The service was notorious for detaining and torturing Hosni Mubarak’s political opponents.

Some members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood might have been involved in inciting or participating in violence. However, Amnesty International is concerned that others are being pursued solely for their membership or support of the Muslim Brotherhood and their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The organization’s concerns are heightened by the crackdown on print publications and television channels known for their support of the deposed President, a move seemingly aimed at silencing criticism of Morsi’s ousting. Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, which has been perceived as siding with Morsi’s supporters, was taken off-air shortly after the ousting of Morsi when security officers in plainclothes raided its office and arrested some 28 staff members. They were released a few hours later, while the channel’s director was bailed out a couple of days later.

Amnesty International urges Egypt’s authorities to ensure that investigations into the political violence in the run-up to and since June 30 are independent, impartial and full; with a view of delivering truth and justice to all victims, rather than settling political scores and carrying out reprisals against the ousted leadership and their allies. Failing to do so would risk bringing Egypt back full-circle to the Mubarak-era practice of cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood with impunity.