12. Muslim Brotherhood detainees face military tribunals

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Despite the acquittal of Khayrat al-Shāṭir, the second deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, along with 39 prominent members of the group by a Cairo criminal court ruling, President Muhammad Ḥusnī Mubārak, acting in his capacity as the supreme commander of the armed forces, referred the detainees to military trials amidst wide scale denunciation from human rights organizations and Egyptian political forces.

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Acting in his capacity as the supreme commander of the armed forces, President Muhammad Ḥusnī Mubārak has transferred the cases of a number of Muslim Brotherhood detainees to a military tribunal soon after their acquittal by a Cairo criminal court.

A government source said that the referral of the case no. 963 State Security of the year 2006 to a military court is in accordance with the provisions of article 6 of the Egyptian penal code. The State Security Prosecution accused the detainees of laundering money, using terrorism to achieve political goals, belonging to a banned group, possessing unlicensed weapons, and distributing books and leaflets against the government.

The detainees included Khayrat al-Shātir, the second deputy of the group’s supreme guide, 39 prominent Muslim Brotherhood members and 124 students from the Azhar University.

Commenting on the president’s decision, Dr. Muḥammad Ḥabīb, the first deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, described the referral decision as unfair and arbitrary. Dr. Habīb added that the decision will damage the country’s image amongst potential Arab and foreign investors and will give an impression of political instability.

Dr. Ḥabīb explained that the group is currently examining the possibility of challenging the president’s decision. ‘Abd al- Mun‘im ‘Abd al-Maqṣūd, the defendants’ lawyer, said that transferring the cases of the detainees to a military court reflected the government’s repressive policy against opposition groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a statement signed by Muḥammad Mahdī ‘Ākif, the supreme guide of the group, published by al-Miṣrī al-Yawm, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the re-arrest of al-Shāṭir, along with other members of the group, adding that trying civilians before military courts is a retrograde step for human rights. The statement said that freezing the assets of well-known financiers of the Muslim Brotherhood will have a negative effect on investment and development opportunities in Egypt. The group called on all human rights organizations and political forces in Egypt to stand out against what it described as the "continuous transgressions against the Muslim Brotherhood." [Reviewer: To read the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement in full, see the group’s website: http://www.muslimbrotherhood.co.uk/Home.asp? zPage=Systems&System=PressR&Press=Show&Lang=E&ID=6532]

In an attempt to describe the current dispute between the Egyptian government and the "outlawed" group, Diyā’ Rashwān, an expert on Islamic movements at the Ahrām Center for Political and Strategic Studies [ACPSS, see: http://www.ahram.org.eg/acpss/eng/], said that the government is now trying to "change the rules of the game." Rashwān explained that contrary to the government’s previous policy of allowing the group to conduct some political activities and to have a real existence on the political scene, the government is now proposing a number of constitutional amendments that are expected to ban all forms of religious-political activities.

Under the headline, ’The Wafd Condemns the Trial of Muslim Brotherhood Members Before a Military Court’ in al-Wafd of February 8, 2007, Yāsir Shūrī quoted Maḥmūd Abāzah, the chairman of the Wafd Party, during the party’s youth conference, held on February 7, 2007 in al-Ismā‘īlīyah, as saying that the primary rights of citizenship require that all civilians are tried before civilian courts. Abāzah stated, "Despite the fact that the Wafd Party disagrees with the Muslim Brotherhood over its political agenda, the party is also in disagreement with the policy of the state." Abāzah said that his party will continue its efforts to defend the values of freedom and will not allow the government to use it as a cat’s paw.

Under the headline, ’ British Newspapers: Conflict Erupts between the Egyptian Regime and the Radical Muslim Brotherhood’ in al- Miṣrī al-Yawm of February 9, 2007, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Khāliq Musāhil and Nafīsah al-Sabbāgh wrote about the British media’s coverage of the current political situation in Egypt. The British newspaper The Trumpet said that competition has become fierce between Mubārak’s "secular administration" and the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which the newspaper said seeks to transform Egypt into an Islamic state. [Reviewer: To read the Trumpet’s article in full, see: http://www.thetrumpet.com/index.php? page=article&id=2948]. In a long report entitled, ’Egyptian Government Threatened by Muslim Brotherhood,’ published on February 8, 2007, the newspaper referred to the "extraordinary broad and deep" sympathy that the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys among Egyptians, adding that the Egyptian government is determined to deal with this.

The report said that over the last two months the government has been clamping down on the officially "banned" group, which it said has managed to secure 88 seats in the last parliamentary elections and infiltrated the media, the educational system, in addition to social and cultural services. It added, "Despite continual repression by the government and periodic crackdowns, the Brotherhood is a dominant social and political force within Egypt."

Commenting on the current tense political atmosphere in Egypt, the ’Financial Times’ [Reviewer: http://www.ft.com/home/europe] said that referring 40 Muslim Brotherhood members to military courts signals another escalation of the government’s security crackdown against the group. [Reviewer: To read the article in full, see: http://search.ft.com/ftArticle?queryText=muslim+brotherhood&aje=true&id=.... The article explained that the Egyptian government is determined to prevent the Muslim Brothers from achieving any further gains, explaining that President Mubārak had proposed constitutional amendments to the parliament, which the newspaper said would make it illegal to establish religion-based parties.

During a press conference held on Saturday by a few Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarians, the group announced that it will continue to exercise self-restraint with regard to what they called the government’s continual repression of opposition groups. The Egyptian authorities used the law which bans street demonstrations, enacted in 1914, to prevent Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Quddūs, a board member of the Journalists’ Syndicate who is also a Muslim Brotherhood member, along with 18 others, from staging a demonstration in front of the Azhar Mosque in Cairo following last week’s Friday prayer.

Dr. Muḥammad Sa‘d al-Katātīnī, the head of the group’s bloc in parliament, said that the group will not hold anti-government demonstrations in the near future. Dr. al-Katātīnī added, "We do not want to cause chaos in the street."

Under the headline, ’The Muslim Brotherhood Companies Finance Secret Activities,’ in al-Ahrām of February 10, 2007, Ahmad Mūsá accused the group of secretly collaborating with former and current U.S. congressmen and British officials. Mūsá claimed that the group supplied information about the police suppression of demonstrators to foreign bodies.

al-Ahrām published a list of the companies which it said belong to known financiers from the group. Amongst these companies are Mālik Spinning Company, Istiqbāl Furniture Company, the International Egyptian Company, the Islamic House for Publication and Distribution [Reviewer: This house is owned by Ahmad Ashraf], the Ḥayāt Pharmaceutical Company, co-owned by al-Shāṭir, Muḥammad Ḥāfiz and Aḥmad ‘Abd al- ‘Ātī, Virginia Tourism Company, Sīwah Company for Land Reclamation, al- Sanābil Company, Naqā’ Company, the Giza Company for Medical Equipments, al-Madā’in Construction Company, the Constructional Development for Real Estate Investment, owned by ‘Abd al- Raḥmān Su‘ūdī and many other companies.

In an interview with Ṣawt al-Ummah, Umm al-Zahrā’, the wife of al-Shātir spoke out against what she described as "the cruelty and despotism of the current Egyptian regime." Umm al-Zahrā’ said that moments after the release of her husband by a Cairo criminal court ruling, her husband was re-arrested by the police and then referred to a military court. Umm al-Zahrā’ explained that the recent arrests have revealed the true and ugly face of the current regime dealing with its political opponents. According to her, the presidential decree ordering the trial of civilians before a military court reflected the government’s weakness and signaled its defeat by the fair Egyptian judiciary. Umm al-Zahrā’ praised Judge ‘Abd al-Radī Abū Laylah, the head of the Cairo Criminal Court, for his courage, claiming that he did not yield to governmental pressures but instead dismissed the charges against the defendants.

Fāṭimah, a daughter of al-Shāṭir expressed her deep sadness and dismay at the ruling, adding that the families of the detainees are suffering a great injustice under the current government. She further stated that her family submitted to God’s will with patience and good grace, quoting the Qur’ ānic verse, "Say: Naught befalleth us save that which Allāh hath decreed for us. He is our Protecting Friend. In Allāh let believers put their trust!" [9:51, ’The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’ān’ by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall].

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