Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood seems to be losing their organisational impetus, with much of their top leadership now behind bars facing charges of inciting violence.
Tuesday saw the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie arrested and charged with inciting violence and managing a group which incites violent crimes against the state and its citizens, according to a statement by the Egyptian prosecution.
Badie has been given a further 15 days’ detention, pending investigations. His detention follows a list of arrests of top Brotherhood and Brotherhood-affiliated leaders who face similar charges.
The Brotherhood responded to their leader’s arrest by saying that arresting the group’s leaders will not hinder the “anti-coup” movement, adding that all the allegations against the leaders are “fabricated for fear that they hold the truth.”
The statement further added that Badie is known to be a peaceful man who “believes in the peacefulness of the movement and the calling.”
Speaking to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website, member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party's (FJP) media committee Ahmed Okeil said that the arrests won’t have an effect on the Brotherhood’s activity which is not centralised but rather being organised “on the ground.” He did however say that it might have an effect on the morale of its members.
The US criticised Badie’s arrest, saying the move “does not reflect their [the Egyptian government]’s commitment to an inclusive political process.”
Confusion about whether Badie will be replaced by the group’s Secretary General Mahmoud Ezzat following the arrest.
The FJP denied an earlier statement it had published on its website saying that Ezzat had been named temporary supreme guide.
The party said via Twitter that the Brotherhood has not released any statements after the arrest of Badie, and said that the FJP website serves as a media outlet and does not reflect the party’s views.
To add to the confusion, Okeil had told Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website earlier that Ezzat had been installed as temporary supreme guide.
Wave of arrests
During the past month, Egyptian police arrested the group’s hawkish deputy leader, Khairat El-Shater, and FJP head Saad El-Katatni.
Police also arrested leaders of the Wasat Party, one of the Brotherhood’s strongest allies, Aboul-Ela Mady and Essam Sultan in July. They were both slapped with accusations of inciting violence and vandalism against a state institution and torture at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in led by the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood sit-in was violently dispersed by police on Wednesday 14 August. The confrontations between protesters and security forces which ensued that day across Egypt led to over 900 deaths, with at least 300 occurring at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in.
While some of the protesters were armed, the violent onslaught brought international condemnation against the Egyptian government.
The Brotherhood led sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya and another in Giza’s Al-Nahda Square were the destinations as well as starting points of numerous rallies demanding the reinstatement of former president Mohamed Morsi, ousted by the army on 3 July after mass protests against him.
The weekend following the dispersal saw more bloodshed as angry Morsi supporters took to the street to condemn the deadly violence and press on with their unbending demand for his reinstatement.
The police announced it had detained over a thousand Brotherhood “elements” on Saturday, after which a marked decline in the magnitude and frequency of pro-Morsi rallies became evident.
The Brotherhood cancelled their main rally on Sunday, and despite announcing nine rallies on Monday, their street presence could barely be felt.
The Egyptian presidency announced a state of emergency on Wednesday, putting into effect laws that allow for administrative detentions without court orders, facilitating mass arrests against the group and its supporters.
Morsi’s return to power seemed increasingly bleak as the Egyptian government insisted on implementing an army-sponsored roadmap that included presidential elections.
A wave of attacks on police stations, government buildings and churches erupted after the sit-ins’ dispersal. While the Brotherhood accused the government of orchestrating the attacks to tarnish their image, the government directly accused the group of being behind the attacks.
In a televised statement, the presidency accused the Brotherhood of leading a “terrorist plot” by attacking state institutions, private and public property and intimidating citizens.
Since Morsi’s ouster, violence has spiked in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as armed assailants carry out numerous attacks on army and police forces there.
The latest violence occurred on Monday, when 25 police conscripts were killed by unknown perpetrators while being transported in a bus near Rafah, close to the Egyptian-Israeli border.
Egypt's interior ministry said that two policemen had also been wounded in the attack. Another conscript died from his injuries hours after the assault.
Stories conflict on the deaths. The interior ministry said armed assailants had opened fire on the bus and state television reported rocket-propelled grenades were fired.
Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Ahram Online it was an execution-style murder.
The story made headlines in Egyptian media outlets which used the incident to reinforce the view being increasingly propagated that the Muslim Brotherhood has moved to terrorism. The Brotherhood has denied any links to Sinai-violence and insists it upholds peaceful methods of protest.
Leading opposition politician Amr Moussa, who was foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak, spoke to senior EU envoy Bernardino Leon on Tuesday, insisting that Egypt is now embroiled in a “war on terror” in Sinai and other locations inside Egypt.
The phone call comes on the eve of an emergency meeting by EU foreign ministers on Egypt that will discuss the fate of European aid to Egypt and possible arms embargo.
Leon said on Monday that the EU still hopes a political settlement can be reached in Egypt.
EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that she is ready to return to Cairo to help facilitate a resolution.
Ashton was one of the few foreign leaders allowed to meet Morsi last month before the breakdown of previous negotiations between the Brotherhood and the interim government earlier this month.