CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egyptian security forces detained 30 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Friday just days ahead of Egypt’s local council elections, including a member of the group’s governing Guidance Office, the group said.
The detentions add to a growing crackdown that has seen more than 300 members of the country’s most powerful opposition group picked up since Tuesday ahead of the April 8 vote, in which the Brotherhood is vying for seats against Egypt’s ruling party.
The Brotherhood, which says it seeks an Islamic state through non-violent and democratic means, said Guidance Office member Mohamed Badia was among those held. The 15-member Guidance Office acts as an executive committee for the Brotherhood.
Egyptian security sources confirmed the arrests, saying that around 26 or 27 Brotherhood members were arrested either in dawn raids on houses or were picked up from the streets as they were putting up pro-Brotherhood campaign posters. They said the men, detained in four provinces, were accused of belonging to a banned group and possessing anti-government literature — accusations often levied to justify Brotherhood detentions but which rarely result in formal charges.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has called the recent Brotherhood arrests a “shameless bid” to fix the upcoming elections.
The Brotherhood says the government has obstructed attempts by its members to get on the ballot in the elections. Egypt’s interior ministry has repeatedly declined to comment on the accusations.
Seats on local councils could be important for the Brotherhood on a national level if it wants to field an independent candidate in a future presidential election.
Independent candidates for the presidency need endorsements from 140 members of local councils as well as support from members of both houses of parliament.
Egyptian courts have issued hundreds of rulings in recent weeks obliging the government to accept the candidacies of Brotherhood members, but the group says authorities have ignored the rulings.
The government says the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned organisation, but the group operates openly and holds a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament through members elected as independents.
Separately, the Brotherhood announced on its Web site that one of its members of parliament, Maher Akl, died on Friday from injuries suffered in a car crash a day earlier.