engaging in banned political activity.
In a statement on its English-language Web site, the Brotherhood frames the arrests as part of an ongoing crackdown on the group ahead of parliamentary elections in April. The statement also asserted that group leaders had been arrested for the MB's support of the Palestinian cause and the besieged people of the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.
Most analysts agree that the arrests are in fact the Egyptian government's answer to the moderate course as revealed last month by the newly elected 'Guide' of the Ikhwan, Mohamed Badie (picture). According to political analyst Hassan Nafea, the regime is attempting to intimidate the group in retaliation for recent statements made by Badie, about a possible alliance with other Egyptian political forces. Amr el-Shobki, expert on Islamic movements, said the regime was going out of its way to weaken the group. "The regime doesn't want to destroy it completely, though, so as to avoid adverse consequences,' he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood itself said that the arrests will not divert the organization from its 'peaceful path', but some in the Ikhwan seem to be worried that governmenet interference will make it difficult for the organization to pursue a coherent election strategy. Particularly worrying is the arrest of Essam al-Erian, who is the Ikhwan's main election strategist since a number of years, while also the arrest of Deputy Guide Ezzat seems to indicate that the government is going to make it hard for the Brotherhood to participate in the elections. . Ezzat is known to be one of the main moderate forces. Till now the regime has kept its hands off him and permitted him to speak out rather freely.