Egypt continues crackdown on opposition ahead local polls

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The Egyptian government has continued its crackdown on the most powerful opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, ahead of upcoming munic i pal elections in April and May. Brotherhood sources said the latest string of arrests is an attempt to deter the Islamic organization from running in the local elections, which were postponed in 2006, in order to deflect Brotherhood success in the fall 2005 parliamentary elections. Egyptian police have detained hundreds of Brotherhood members in recent weeks. Ikhwanweb, the group’s web site, said approximately 500 members are currently behind bars. The most recent round-up saw some of those detained were actually planning to stand in the local elections, the group said. Many of the high ranking Brotherhood leaders have continually expressed the understanding that their position in the group makes them vulnerable to detention. Essam El Erian, a spokesman and leading member of the Brotherhood, told PANA he expected detention. “We all know they could come for us,” Erian previously said after one of his few stints in detention, after attempting to travel outside Egypt to attend a conference. “All of us have given our families power of attorney so that they can continue with life even if we are behind bars for days, weeks or even months,” he added. The muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful opposition group, currently holds approximately 25 per cent of seats in the country’s lower house of Parliament, although officially they are independents.

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