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Egypt Labels Brotherhood “Terrorist Group”

Published: 26/12/2013 04:47:51 PM GMT
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CAIRO – In a much criticized decision, the Egyptian interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest and oldest Islamic organization, a terrorist group, following attack claimed by militant group inspired by Al-Qaeda. “This is a big miscalculation from the government,” Khalil al-Anani, a senior fellow at ...(more)

CAIRO – In a much criticized decision, the Egyptian interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest and oldest Islamic organization, a terrorist group, following attack claimed by militant group inspired by Al-Qaeda.

“This is a big miscalculation from the government,” Khalil al-Anani, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington who studies the Brotherhood, told New York Times on Thursday, December 26.

“It is a massive social movement, whose supporters might retaliate or fight back,” he added, calling the designation “a turning point” and said it could lead Egypt to a civil conflict like the one in Algeria in the 1990s.

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Ban Hits Brotherhood's Charity Networks Al-Anani was commenting on the interim government decision on Wednesday to formally list the group as a terrorist organization, a decision seen as anticipating an intensified crackdown on its members.

The cabinet’s announcement came one day after a deadly car bombing outside a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. Fourteen people were killed in the blast, most of them officers, and more than 150 others were wounded.

A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement published online on Wednesday.

The Brotherhood’s London press office issued a statement on Tuesday that “strongly condemned” the bombing.

But the government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, though it provided no evidence connecting the group to the attack.

"The government reiterates that there will be no return to the past under any circumstances and Egypt, the state and the people, will never succumb to the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose crimes have gone far beyond all moral, religious and human limits," Hossam Issa, the interim minister of higher education and a deputy prime minister, announced the Cabinet's decision on state-run al-Masriaya television.

The government also will punish anyone giving the group financial support, Issa added.

The announcement on Wednesday is a dramatic escalation of the standoff between the government and the Brotherhood, which has waged near-daily peaceful protests since the 3 July military decision to topple President Mohamed Morsi, after mass protests.

With most of the Brotherhood’s senior leaders already imprisoned, Al-Anani said, “there is a lack of communication between the leadership and young Brotherhood members. And these people can be dragged to the violent path.”

The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed for most of its 85 year existence before becoming legalized in 2011 and then in March 2013 registering as a non-governmental organization.

The group's political arm, Freedom and Justice party, has won in five consecutive elections.


Following the government’s decision, the United States issued a strong reaction to the news that the Muslim Brotherhood was labeled as terrorists.

"We think it is essential for Egypt to have an inclusive political process; it is the best means of restoring the stability that the Egyptian people want and that is necessary to the country's economic recovery," said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, CNN reported on Wednesday.

"There needs to be dialogue and political participation across the political spectrum."

She repeated the United States' condemnation of the bombings, noting the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the bombing and Ansar Jerusalem, in Arabic called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, had taken credit for the attack.

She said the United States has designated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as a terrorist group.

"We are concerned about the current atmosphere and its potential effects on a democratic transition in Egypt," she said.

Russia also condemned the bombings, calling for a broad dialogue between the country’s leading political and social forces.

"Political differences, no matter how sharp they may be, should be resolved by peaceful means in the ways of a broad dialogue with the participation of leading political and social forces of the country," the Foreign Ministry said.

As for the liberal Free Egyptians Party, the decision to ban Brotherhood was a ‘great step’.

“With this step, the great people of Egypt are writing a new page in the history of their long struggle to protect the state and its civilization,” the party said in a statement cited by The Daily News Egypt.

Meanwhile, Member of Al-Nour Party high board Shaaban Abdel Alim said that the decision by the government should have been analyzed more carefully and with more regard to its legal effects.

“The government’s decision is an administrative decision, which could be easily appealed; however, I personally believe that they should have waited on a final non-appealable court verdict,” he said.

“The government should have also analysed the effects such a decision has on the Egyptian economy, where tourism will be greatly affected,” Abdel-Alim added.

Yet, for Ahmed al-Arainy, a Brotherhood member who has already been arrested once since the ouster of Morsi, said that after months of killings and arrests by the authorities, the new designation “makes no difference to us.”

“Our problem with them is on the ground and not related to their labels,” he told New York Times, referring to Egypt’s current leaders.

“They killed us in the street yesterday, and today they’re trying to legalize the crime they had already committed.”

Legal Challenges

Commenting on the government sudden decision, experts confirmed that the government may face serious legal challenges.

"The prime minister has no right to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group as no terrorism law has been issued to give him the power to do so. Even Article 86 of the Penal Code does not give him the right to declare the Brotherhood a terrorist group," Amr El-Shalakany, professor of law at the American University in Cairo, told Al-Ahram newspaper.

El-Shalakany added that the decision to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group could be easily overturned on appeal by the administrative court.

"It is problematic. This is an administrative decision and not a legislative one, as only the interim president has a legislative right to issue decisions and laws, not the cabinet," human rights lawyer Malek Adly told Ahram Online.

Human rights lawyer Malek Adly has also blasted the decision as a result of the failure of security to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.

"I highly doubt that those who took the decision thought about its legal basis thoroughly; it was a political decision not a legal one," Adly added.

"It would have been better to wait for the court to issue a verdict to categories the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization."

"There is a hysteria in the street because of the failure of security to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and I personally believe that there are some parties in the government marketing the idea that if we declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group all our problems in Egypt would be solved, which is untrue," said the leftist human rights lawyer Adly.

Moreover, the identification of members of the Muslim Brotherhood appeared as another challenge facing the government.

"How can you identify members of the Muslim Brotherhood when there are no official lists of Muslim Brotherhood members. Its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), has a list of members but being a member in the FJP is not an official crime," Adly said.

"I can be arrested tomorrow and accused by the government of being a Muslim Brotherhood member or a terrorist according to this decision when I am a leftist and I could fail to prove that I am not a member in the Muslim Brotherhood," the human rights lawyers added, fearing that the decision will be used to silence any opposition voice against the government.

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