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Viewing cable 10CAIRO197, Egypt: New Round of MB Arrests

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO197 2010-02-11 16:04 2011-02-16 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO1603
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0197/01 0421609
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 111609Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0228
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 000197 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/11 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KISL PHUM EG
SUBJECT: Egypt: New Round of MB Arrests 
 
REF: 2009 CAIRO 1467; 2009 CAIRO 2183; CAIRO 119 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Donald A. Blome, Minister Counselor, DOS, Economic and 
Political Affairs; REASON: 1.4(B), (D) 
 
1. Key Points: 
 
 
 
-- (U) Three senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt 
including Deputy Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, Spokesman Essam El Eryan and MB "Mufti" Abdel Rahman El Barr were detained by security forces the morning of February 8 along with twelve other members of 
the MB. 
 
 
 
-- (C) According to media reports the group is being held "under 
investigation" for an initial period of 15-days.  MB sources tell 
us that the group was originally detained, and their homes 
searched, under the Emergency Law but that their detention will 
likely be justified under an "investigative file" that will opened 
to their lawyers next week. 
 
 
 
-- (C) There are no formal charges against those detained.  Media 
reports indicate that accusations under investigation include 
membership in a "banned" organization that threatens the "peace and 
security of the state" and spreading the "extremist ideas" of Sayed 
Qutb.  The detainees are reportedly not cooperating with 
investigators. 
 
 
 
-- (C) The arrests come in the lead-up to the 2010 parliamentary 
elections and during the MB's own internal elections for its 
100-man Shura Council, its legislative body.  They also follow 
recent internal MB elections for a new Guidance Bureau and a new 
Supreme Guide. 
 
 
 
2. (S/NF) Comment:  Members of the MB's Guidance Bureau have been arrested several times in recent years.  However, the detention of 
these leading figures, including the newly elected Deputy Supreme 
Guide, seems to represent an escalation.  Most observers here see 
the move as part of a continuing GOE campaign to suppress the NDP's 
only significant political challenge ahead of upcoming 
parliamentary elections.  However, there is some danger that the 
move could backfire on the government, presenting an already 
weakened MB in a sympathetic light, and highlighting GOE insecurity 
ahead of elections. 
 
 
 
3. (S/NF) Comment Continued:  It is unclear how the GOE will handle 
this case.  There is precedent for both the transfer of MB 
defendants to a military court and jail time in a military prison 
(as in the 2008 case against Deputy Supreme Guide Khariat El 
Shatter), and the release of defendants on bail after several 
months in detention while the investigation against them remains on 
the books (as in the November 2009 release of Guidance Bureau 
member Abdel Moneim Al Fotouh).  End Comment. 
 
 
 
--------------------------- 
 
New High Profile MB Arrests 
 
--------------------------- 
 
 
 
4. (C) Three high-ranking members of the MB's Guidance Bureau (the 
group's 16-member administrative body) were detained by State 
Security forces with twelve other lower ranking members on the 
morning of February 8.  The group includes newly-named Deputy 
Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, MB spokesman (one of three 
recently-named spokesmen for the group) Essam El Eryan, and MB 
"Mufti" (or religious leader) Abdel Rahman El Barr.  A fourth 
member of the Guidance Bureau, Mohie Hamed, avoided arrest. 
According to Ikhwanweb, the MB's English-language website, Hamed 
has been ordered to appear before the Supreme State Security 
Prosecutor.  One of the twelve other MB detainees arrested along 
with them has reportedly been transferred to a hospital for heart 
 
CAIRO 00000197  002 OF 003 
 
 
surgery following a heart attack during his arrest.  MB sources 
have reported to the media that those detained have declined to 
give any statements to investigators.   These latest high-profile 
arrests come amid continued reports of arrests of dozens of rank 
and file MB members outside of Cairo reportedly as they gather in 
preparation for elections of the MB's 100-man Shura Council (the 
group's legislative body) scheduled for April 2010. 
 
 
 
------- 
 
Charges 
 
------- 
 
 
 
5. (C) No formal charges have been announced by the Public 
Prosecutor.  MB Parliamentary Bloc leader and Spokesman Saad 
Katatni told PolOff on February 10 that the group was originally 
detained, and their homes searched, under the Emergency Law (Ref 
A), but said he expected any "investigation" or "prosecution" would 
be conducted according to the criminal code.  Katatni said lawyers 
for the detained have been told they will be given access by the 
Prosecutor to the "investigative file" against the group next 
Tuesday February 16.  According to media reports the group remains 
in detention "under investigation" for the next 15 days (this can 
be renewed several times for a period of up to six months by the 
Prosecutor himself).  Charges under investigation include belonging 
to a "banned" organization that threatens the "peace and security 
of the state," a charge commonly made against detained members of 
the MB.  For the first time members of the group have been charged 
with participation in a faction of the MB that adheres to the 
"takfiri" or "un-Islamic" doctrine of Sayed Qutb, which deems those 
who do not follow it "infidels" and thus, according to the Public 
Prosecutor, supports the formation of a military wing that would 
carry out armed resistance against the regime.  (Note: Qutb was 
executed by former President Nasser in 1966 for having led an 
attempt to violently overthrow the regime.  Both current Supreme 
Guide Mohammed Badie and now arrested Deputy Guide Ezzat were 
detained in 1965 along with Qutb.  They were later released by 
President Anwar Sadat.  End Note.) 
 
 
 
6. (C) There is a precedent for long detentions of MB leaders while 
"under investigation."  Three other high-ranking members of the 
MB's Guidance Bureau, including Dr. Abdel Meneim Al Fotouh, were 
detained for several months in 2009 while "under investigation." 
(Ref B)  While all three have been released on bail, the cases 
against them are still pending (Ref C). (Note:  Fotouh was released 
in November 2009 and subsequently lost his seat on the MB's 
Guidance Bureau in December elections (Ref D). End Note). 
 
 
 
----------- 
 
MB Response 
 
----------- 
 
 
 
7. (C) Reports of the arrests first surfaced the morning of 
February 8 on the MB's English-language website Ikhwanweb.  The 
following day (February 9) Ikhwanweb published an MB statement 
condemning the arrests.  In the statement the group said it 
believed the arrests were linked to MB support for "the resistance 
of the besieged people of Gaza" and are intended to "undermine 
participation by the group ahead of the legislative elections later 
this year."  The MB also affirmed that despite the arrests it will 
continue on its "missionary course" and the "path (it has) chosen 
for attaining the country's welfare" through "peaceful reformist 
methods despite...restrictions paced to liberties."  MB members 
were reportedly present in large numbers outside the offices of the 
Public Prosecutor on Tuesday February 9.  The group also staged a 
small protest in Suez against the ongoing detention of other MB 
members despite the end of their court-ordered detention period. 
 
 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
MB Arrests as a Pre-emptive Political Strike 
 
CAIRO 00000197  003 OF 003 
 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
 
 
8. (C) MB lawyer Abdel Menem Abdel Maqsoud told the independent 
daily El Shorouk that he believed the GOE targeted MB 
"organizational leaders" like former MB Secretary General and now 
Deputy Guide Mahmoud Ezzat to hamper preparations for the Shura 
Council elections in June 2010 and the People's Assembly elections 
in November 2010.  He added that the level of the arrests sent the 
message that no one was immune.  Al Ahram Center for Political and 
Strategic Studies analyst Amr El Choubaki called the arrests a 
"pre-emptive strike to foil" MB election preparations. 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
Prospects for MB Participation in a National Coalition 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
 
 
9. (C) According to political commentator, University Professor, 
and head of the "Coalition Against Succession" Hassan Nafaa, the 
arrests also were part of an effort to stop any potential 
coordination between the MB and other opposition political groups 
in the lead-up to the elections.  Before the arrests, Democratic 
Front Party XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed to PolOff press 
reports that he and others were working with various political 
movements, including the MB, to form a unified national coalition 
under the banner of a "Conference for All Egyptians."  XXXXXXXXXXXX was surprised the intended conference had surfaced in the media after he and fellow organizer, XXXXXXXXXXXX, had taken pains to "quietly plan" for months.  XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed the MB would be part of the effort.  Reporting on plans for an "All Egyptians" conference was included in press articles covering a February 3 event held by the Press Syndicate's Freedom Committee (headed by known MB member Mohamed Abdel Quddous) entitled the "Future of Egypt."  At the conference, which included among others an NDP MP and Harb, the now arrested Essam El Eryan reportedly told the group that the MB was willing to "make compromises for the sake of having a national coalition" to pursue "comprehensive reform." 
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