El-Katatni: From prisoner to speaker of parliament

Sherif Tarek , Tuesday 24 Jan 2012

Nearly a year ago, the Muslim Brotherhood was politically restricted by the former regime; El-Katatni one of the group’s leaders is parliamentary speaker

El-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood greets other members of parliament in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

On 27 January 2011, Mohamed Saad El-Katatni and tens of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested as the government of Hosni Mubarak sought to repress the growing popular uprising.

Nearly a year later, it is fair to say that the Brotherhood has turned the tables on the toppled regime, with El-Katatni overwhelmingly elected as the new parliamentary speaker, while former president Mubarak faces charges in court.

Last January’s mass arrest of Brotherhood figures was not instigated through clear legal avenues or formal charges issued by the prosecutor general.

Rather, it was widely seen as an impulsive attempt by the Mubarak administration to pile pressure on the Brotherhood, to dissuade them from being in the streets during the January 25 revolution.

Such a move, needless to say, did not pay off, as with other oppressive measures applied by Mubarak’s government, eventually overthrown on 11 February last year.

Brotherhood and Mubarak’s regime switch roles

As the 18-day revolt intensified and prison gates were mysteriously opened, El-Katatni along with hundreds of inmates were freed, days before Mubarak and his oligarchy were brought down.

The aftermath of the revolution saw the Brotherhood realise their long-held dream by establishing a political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which gives the group the solid political representation Islamists did not have under Mubarak.

Before the revolution, Brotherhood members and other Islamists used to run for parliamentary elections as independent candidates and not through political parties. They were unable to form political parties due to restrictive conditions imposed by the former regime, in addition to the prohibition of parties with religious frames of reference.  

Several leading Brotherhood figures served prison sentences in Mubarak’s Egypt.

Since February, it is Mubarak and many of his oligarchs who have been in court. The 83-year-old former president faces charges of corruption and suspected involvement in the killing of peaceful protesters during the uprising.

Some of former associates of Mubarak are already in jail, such as former interior minister Habib El-Adly who was found guilty of corruption and is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence.

Although several observers have noted limitations to the Mubarak trial in terms of leniency shown towards the defendants, the fact remains that many Egyptians would never have imagined such a trial taking place.

Those who imprisoned the Brotherhood and other opposition figures are now in court or prison, while the Brotherhood dominates the new People’s Assembly.

After the establishment of the FJP, El-Katatni, who a year ago was incarcerated in Wadi El-Natroun prison, was appointed as the party’s secretary general.

The FJP recently emerged as the biggest winner of the parliamentary elections and now comprises 47 per cent of the People’s Assembly.

El-Katatni officially announced his nomination for the position of the People’s Assembly speaker in the opening session on Monday, and was elected after amassing 399 votes out of 508 in a ballot held shortly afterwards.  

He opened the People’s Assembly session the following day.

Mini Factbox

El-Katatni was born in the Upper Egyptian governorate Sohag on 4 March 1952.  He is a microbiologist and worked as a professor at the Science Faculty of Minya University from 1994 to 1998. He also conducted Islamic studies

The 59-year-old first joined the Brotherhood in 1981 and was elected to the Guidance Bureau in 2008.

El-Katatni represented the Brotherhood in parliament  from 2005 until 2010.

From 1990-2006 El-Katatni served as secretary general of the Minya University’s Teaching Committee.

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