Egypt government declares Muslim Brotherhood 'terrorist group'

Ahram Online , Thursday 26 Dec 2013

An anticipated step against Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood materialises as the government officially brands the Islamist group as 'terrorist'

Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood supporters chant pro-Mursi slogans in front of the Brotherhood's main headquarters in March, the group logo dominates the background. (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's interim government officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood, from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails, a terrorist group.

In a press statement on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa said the cabinet declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, making it subject to Article 86 of the Egyptian penal code, which defines terrorism and the penalties for engaging in it.

Eissa said the deadly bombing in the Delta city of Mansoura on Tuesday as well as recent attacks on churches and other violent incidents attributed to members of the group led to the decision.

Prosecutors are still investigating the Mansoura bombing that left 16 dead. The Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday.

Some of Egypt's political forces blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the deadly attack on the Daqahliya security directorate in the city of Mansoura. 

The liberal Free Egyptians Party condemned the Mansoura "terrorist crime," accusing the Brotherhood of standing behind the attack.

"No truce and no complacency with the Brotherhood terrorist group, in the country and beyond," the party said in a statement published on its official website.

A spokesman of Sabbahi's Popular Current group, Heba Yassin, also directly accused the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack saying "your brutal terrorism targeting the nation and its institutions will not restore your power; and the Egyptian people, whose blood you’ve made legitimate to spill, will not submit to you."

The Liberal Constitution Party, founded by former vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei, also accused the Brotherhood of being responsible for the attack.

"While no finger of blame has yet been pointed to any specific terror group, the party calls on the Muslim Brotherhood to face its responsibilities and acknowledge its errors which have led to increased tension and confrontation with security forces," the party said in a statement.

Most  Egyptian private and public media outlets accused the Brotherhood of orchestating Mansoura attacks. 

A government crackdown on the group following the dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in August landed hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood in jail on charges of inciting violence.

Since August, the country has witnessed an increasing number of militant attacks on policemen and military personnel.

The Brotherhood repeatedly denied any links to militant attacks against the government. The group swiftly condemned the Mansoura bombing saying they have been and always will be peaceful in their quest to reverse the "coup d'état."

Decision may be appealed

Experts say the government decision 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," said Amr El-Shalakany, professor of law at the American University in Cairo.

El-Shalakany added that the decision of the prime minister 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. 

"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 categorise the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation."

Concerns, difficulties in implementation

"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.

From a human rights perspective there is a huge concern, believes Adly.

"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," he 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.

Regarding the status of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and whether they would be arrested now according to the new decision, former police general and security expert Fouad Allam told Ahram Online that identifying someone as a terrorist does not give the right to the government to arrest them, as someone can be arrested only upon breaking the law.

Allam also believes that a decision like declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation needs international support, otherwise it remains useless.

"An internationally supported decision will help the government trace the funds and financing, as well as aid in extraditing wanted terrorists. This is why this decision needed to have international support," he added.

Egypt's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that it would immediately contact Arab countries, encouraging them adopt the same stance according to the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism signed by Arab governments.

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