CAIRO - Egypt's election commission has disqualified ten candidates from running for the country's presidential election, including top Islamist candidates and the former spy chief of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
"This is a political decision," Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdelmonein Abdel Maqsud told the official MENA news agency.
The commission said 10 candidates were disqualified from running in Egypt's presidential election for failing to meet conditions for candidacy.
Among those barred were Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Khairat Al-Shater, former spy chief Omar Suleiman and Salafi aspirant Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail.
Commission official Tarek Abul Atta told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Shater was banned because he was recently release from prison without being pardoned.
Under law, candidates can run in election six years after being released or pardoned.
Shater had been in jail on charges of terrorism and money laundering during the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, but was released in March last year.
Suleiman, who was appointed a vice-president by Mubarak in the dying days of his three-decade regime, was disqualified because he failed to get endorsements from 15 provinces as per law.
Abu Ismail was barred from the race because his mother holds the American nationality.
Under Egypt's election rules, all candidates, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.
Last week, an Egyptian court had cleared the way for Abu-Ismail to join the race after ruling that his mother was not a US citizen.
Others who have been disqualified include Ayman Nur, who caught the world's attention when he challenged Mubarak in 2005 presidential elections.
Nur was imprisoned shortly after those elections and released on health grounds in 2009. He was banned under the same rule as the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate.
The disqualification was seen by the Brotherhood's candidate as an attempt to reproduce the Mubarak's regime.
"There is an attempt by the old Mubarak regime to hijack the last stage of this transitional period and reproduce the old system of governance," Murad Muhammed, a spokesman for Shater's campaign, told Reuters.
"We will not give up our right to enter the presidential race."
Abu-Ismail also criticized the decision to disqualify him from the race.
"They want to play a game. This is a violation of Egyptian law and the constitution," he told the Islamist television station, Hikma.
Abu Ismail followers have held several demonstrations to warn against any move to disqualify their candidate.
On Friday they besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises.
Abu Ismail's lawyer, Nizar Ghorab, told Reuters he expected "a major crisis to happen in the next few hours."
Suleiman, whose candidacy has sparked protests in Egypt, also vowed to challenge the commission's decision.
"Omar Suleiman will take legal route to challenge this decision to exclude him from the presidential race," his aide Hussein Kamal told Reuters.
Banned candidates have 48 hours to appeal the commission's decision.
A total of 23 candidates had registered for Egypt's first presidential election since a popular uprising toppled Mubarak last year.
The remaining candidates include former Arab League chief Amr Mussa, who also served as Mubarak's foreign minister for 10 years.Other candidates still in the race also include former Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Abul Fotouh and Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.