Political wing of Egypt's Gamaa Islamiya elects new chairman to avoid dissolution

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 20 Aug 2017

The party elected a new chairman who vowed to disrupt its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and take a pro-regime position

File photo of a meeting of the Reconstruction and Development Party (Ahram)

The Reconstruction and Development Party (RDP) – which acts as the political arm of the Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya – elected Mohamed Tayseer as its new chairman Saturday.

The election comes after Tarek El-Zommor, the party's former head who fled to Qatar in 2013, resigned last month.

Tayseer, who was acting as the party's secretary-general, told reporters that the election represents "a new stage in the history of Gamaa Islamiya."

Tayseer said El-Zommor's resignation last month means that the party has disrupted its former alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood – the group that was removed from power in a popular uprising in the summer of 2013 and that is now listed as a terrorist organisation in Egypt.

"We are no longer a member of the "pro-legitimacy" alliance that was led by the terrorist organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013," said Tayseer.

The election of Tayseer was held in the presence of some of Gamaa Islamiya and the Jihad movement's historical leaders, such as Abboud, El-Zommor's brother, who was convicted of participating the assassination of late President Anwar El-Sadat; Nasr Abdel-Salam, the first chairman of the Reconstruction and Development Party; and the party's new secretary-general, Gamal Samaka.

Abdel-Salam said the Party Affairs Committee, which regulates political parties in Egypt, was officially informed of the result of the election.

"The committee took note of the election's result – that Tayseer has become a new head – and that the party fully respects Egypt's 2014 constitution, rejects violence and fully supports the regime's pro-democracy moves," said Abdel-Sallam.

He added that, "The RDP is a political party that rejects violence and the mix of religion with politics," said Abdel-Salam.

Dissolution threat 

The election of Tayseer also comes after Adel-El-Shorbagy, the head of the Party Affairs Committee, said last month that the committee had filed lawsuits to dissolve 10 Islamist parties, including the RDP, accusing it of inciting violence and funding terrorism.

"The investigation encompasses participation in terrorist attacks, forming underground armed militias, inciting violence, and funding terrorism," said El-Shorbagy.

On Saturday, Egypt's Higher Administrative Court said that its council of commissioners have begun deliberating on the lawsuit challenging the legality of the RDP.

The State Cases Authority (SCA), acting on behalf of the Party Affairs Committee, said the existence of the RDP violates Article 74 of the constitution, which bans religious political parties.

"Not to mention that the RDP has been actively involved in terrorist operations since 2011 and that its leader – Tarek El-Zommor – was recently deigned as a terrorist by four Arab countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain," the authority said. 

"SCA requests that the RDP be dissolved, and its financial assets and headquarters be sequestrated."

On 8 June, the four countries issued a list of 59 terror suspects, including El-Zommor, who they accuse the Gulf state of Qatar of sheltering.

Egypt is demanding that Qatar hand over El-Zommor along with other Egyptian fugitives affiliated with Islamist parties, such as Youssef El-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

El-Zommor, 56, was imprisoned for his role in the 1981 assassination of Sadat during a military parade in Cairo. After spending three decades in Egyptian prison, Al-Zommor was released after the removal of the Mubarak regime in February 2011.

El-Zommor was tried in absentia and convicted of inciting violence and masterminding a number of terrorist operations in Egypt.

Lawyers representing the RDP told reporters Saturday that they have forwarded three dossiers containing a complete list of the names of the party's members in all governorates.

"The list shows that none of the party's members has been involved in any terrorist or violent acts," lawyers said.

Lawyers indicated that the dossiers also contain the party's official statements which show that it "supports the regime of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, rejects violence and terrorism, and respects the constitution."

"This shows that the lawsuit filed to dissolve the party should be rejected by the court," said lawyers.

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