CAIRO, (Reuters) – The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s strongest opposition group, said on Saturday security forces had arrested at least 20 of its members who were trying to stand in nationwide trade union elections.
Saber Aboul Fotouh, the trade union elections’ coordinator for the banned group, said authorities had refused to accept the candidacy of hundreds of its members for elections next week, and had given no reasons for their decision.
“Twenty (members) were arrested because they went to … present their applications,” Aboul Fotouh, who is also a parliament member, told a news conference. An Interior Ministry spokesman said he had no knowledge of the matter.
Despite banning it since 1954, Egyptian authorities usually tolerate the Brotherhood. Members elected as independents hold 88 seats in the 454-member parliament, dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.
The Egyptian police regularly detain Brotherhood members for brief periods. Hundreds were arrested in a crackdown following parliamentary elections last year but most have been released.
Manpower and Emigration Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi said in remarks published on Saturday the government would not interfere in the trade union elections.
“Certain groups thought that they can be present in every election but the workers are aware of this and have the ability to choose their representatives,” she said, in a veiled swipe at the Brotherhood candidates.