CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egypt released senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian and nine other members of the group on Friday, a day after a court ordered them freed, Brotherhood officials said.
The men, detained during an escalating Egyptian crackdown on political dissent, were among a group of 17 Islamists arrested in mid-August after Egyptian police broke up a Brotherhood leadership meeting in the Cairo suburb of Mohandiseen.
Erian, a medical doctor who is head of the Brotherhood’s political department, has been in and out of detention for more than 15 years as a result of his Brotherhood activities. “We are overjoyed, especially that this comes before the (Muslim holiday) Eid el Fitr,” said Mohamed Habib, the group’s deputy leader. “But we hope they will release the remaining prisoners, especially those in military courts.”
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends next week with the Eid holiday, marked by feasting and family gatherings.
The non-violent Brotherhood seeks an Islamic state through democratic elections and operates openly despite a decades-old ban. Brotherhood members standing as independent candidates hold a fifth of the seats in parliament. But the Egyptian government considers the Brotherhood an illegal organisation and regularly detains members without charge. Some 40 members of the group are currently on trial in military court on terrorism and money laundering charges, in a trial rights groups have complained is unfair.