The Egyptian parliamentAmnesty International accused Egypt on Tuesday of arresting dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members to disrupt the opposition group's elections campaign ahead of a parliamentary vote in November. Police have arrested more than 150 people since the Islamists' leader, Mohammed Badie, announced on October 9 that the group would contest 30 percent of parliament's elected seats in the election. Seventy have been released.
The Brotherhood runs its candidates as independents as the party itself is oulawed. It won 88 seats, or a fifth of parliament's seats in the last election in 2005.
"The 70 still held include supporters of Muslim Brotherhood election candidates and several regional leaders of the organization," the London-based rights group said. "Those arrested appear to be detained solely on account of their association with the Muslim Brotherhood organisation," a statement quoted Middle East director Malcolm Smart as saying. Said Haddadi, a Middle East researcher for Amnesty, told AFP "the arrests were clearly taken to disrupt their campaigning. This isn't new. Whenever there is an election Muslim Brotherhood members are arrested and opposition members are harassed."
In 2005, the government, under heavy US pressure to push democratic reforms, reached a deal with the Brotherhood that allowed it to contest a limited number of seats, according to the Islamists' then leader, Mohammed Akef. But when the Brotherhood appeared to be making rapid gains, police cracked down by closing polling stations and arresting Brotherhood supporters.
Meanwhile, Egypt's main satellite operator has shut down another 12 private television channels on grounds of "violating broadcasting licences".
Earlier this month, Cairo ordered the suspension of the licences of five channels after accusing them of violating the terms of their contracts with NileSat and breaching broadcasting ethics.