Egypt arrests senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam El-Erian in continuing crackdown on Islamists

 

Egyptian authorities have detained senior Muslim Brotherhood figurer Essam El-Erian - the latest arrest in a government crackdown against the Islamist movement.

Erian, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, was this morning taken into custody from a residence in New Cairo where he had been in hiding.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, an Interior Ministry source said: "Yes, he's been arrested and details will soon be released".

The state news agency MENA said Erian was arrested in New Cairo but gave no further details. Local media circulated a photo of what they described as the moment he was arrested, showing a smiling Erian standing next to a bed with two packed duffle bags.

Many Brotherhood leaders have been detained and charged with inciting violence since the army, prompted by mass protests, deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi on July 3.

At least 1,000 people, including security forces, were killed in the violence that followed Mursi's ouster. Hundreds of his supporters were killed when police forces stormed two protest camps, calling for Mursi's reinstatement, on August 14.

Mursi, Erian and 12 other Brotherhood leaders are expected to go on trial on Monday on charges of inciting violence.

The charges relate to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace last December after Mursi enraged protesters with a decree expanding his powers.

An Egyptian court in September banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and seized their funds to try to crush the movement, which the government accuses of inciting violence and terrorism.

Brotherhood leaders accused the army of staging a coup and undermining democratic gains made since a popular uprising toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Mursi's followers also accuse the government of becoming increasingly authoritarian and taking the country back to the days of Mubarak, who ruled with an iron fist for three decades.

Human rights groups and some liberal politicians have expressed alarm over a draft law under debate that would place severe restrictions on protests.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the law would give police carte blanche to ban protests in Egypt.

“This draft law would effectively mandate the police to ban all protests outright and to use force to disperse ongoing protests,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The final law will be an important indicator of the extent to which the new government is going to allow for political space in Egypt.”

Additional reporting Reuters

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