Cablegate: Reports of Divisions Within the Mb Following The
DE RUEHEG #1893/01 2741620
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011620Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3761
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001893
NEA/ELA, NSC FOR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PHUM KISL EG
SUBJECT: REPORTS OF DIVISIONS WITHIN THE MB FOLLOWING THE
DEATH OF A GUIDANCE BUREAU MEMBER; ARRESTS UPDATE. REF: A. CAIRO 1493 B. CAIRO 1467 Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d
1.(C) Key Issues: -- The death of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Guidance Bureau member Mohammed Helal on September 21 has left an open seat in the Bureau. -- Reporting in the private daily Al Dustour, later circulated by other print media outlets, indicates that there is some pressure from conservatives inside the MB to block the appointment of known moderate Dr. Essam El Eryan to the Bureau. -- Arrests of MB's have continued following a lull during Ramadan and include former MB MP Dr. Gamal Heshmat. MB leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (reftel) remains in detention and his medical parole hearing has been postponed to October 8.
2.(C) Comment: Eryan is known in the media as a "moderate" MB and in the past has been publically criticized by more conservative elements within the MB. Contacts tell us that there is an inter-generational and ideological battle going on between more pragmatic moderates and religious conservatives within the MB. The announcement by the Supreme Guide that he would step down at the end of his term (December 2009), has raised the stakes of the leadership struggle. Embassy contacts who follow MB issues believe the focus of GoE pressure will continue to be moderates like Aboul Fotouh. They see this as an effort to radicalize the MB's message, and thus further marginalize them from the mainstream. End Comment. --------------------------------------------- ---- MB Conservatives Attempt to Limit Moderate's Role --------------------------------------------- ----
3.(C) Following the death of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Guidance Bureau member Mohammed Helal on September 21 the private and sometimes sensationalist Al Dustour ("The Constitution") newspaper printed a series of articles on internal divisions within the MB over Helal's replacement. The Guidance Bureau and the MB Shura Council governs the MB's internal affairs. Dustour reported that conservatives within the MB, led by MB Secretary General Mahmoud Ezzat, are trying to obstruct Dr. Essam El Eryan, known as a "moderate" member of the MB, from taking Helal's seat.
4. (C) Dustour's reporting cites sources who say that younger MBs and Eryan supporters intend to pressure MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef to promote Eryan to the Guidance Bureau. Akef will step down from his post following the end of his term in December 2009. These sources also maintain that Guidance Bureau rules require that any vacant seat be allocated according to internal popularity, but suggest that manipulation of those internal guidelines is possible. Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies analyst on Islamist trends Di'aa Rashwan confirmed that Eryan did win a significant number of votes in the last internal election in May/June 2008 and called his rise to the Guidance Bureau a "valid possibility." (Note: MB MP and Bloc leader Saad Katatni and four others were named to the Bureau following the same elections. End Note.)
5. (C) Similar reporting has appeared in other Egyptian papers, but seems to be recycled from the Dustour account. The article's author, Abdel Menem Mahmoud, was an MB who reportedly resigned from the group - angered by internal governance issues - and now writes the "Ana Ikhwan" or "I am a brother" blog, as a self-styled representative of MB youth. Several Islamist blogs and websites, including Islamonline.com, have posted Dustour's reporting to their sites. In his most recent article, Mahmoud also claims that "MB youths" have posted the Dustour "exclusive on Eryan" on their blogs and Facebook and "declared their support" for him. We have found only two such posts supporting Eryan; one is from the author himself. ---------------- Bio Notes: Eryan ----------------
6.(C) Eryan is known as the unofficial spokesman of MB (although this role has diminished over the last year). He is also considered the most prominent of the "younger CAIRO 00001893 002 OF 002 generation" of MB leaders. (Note: El Eryan is 55. End Note.) Eryan was a member of the Egyptian parliament in the late-1980s and has been the Assistant Secretary General of the Doctor's Syndicate since 1986. He is also a founding member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). Eryan has been arrested several times because of his MB membership. In 1995 Eryan was sentenced to five years hard labor for "belonging to an illegal group that aims to suspend the constitution." He was arrested and held for several months three times since his release in 2000, including 5 months in detention before the 2005 elections.
7.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOff that the report of Eryan's possible rise to the Bureau is reasonable. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, end-of-year elections for a new MB Supreme Guide might make conservatives even more wary of further legitimizing Eryan because his popularity within the MB makes him a viable replacement for the current Supreme Guide and would change the direction of the MB. However, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, there is no requirement that Helal be replaced. Following Helal,s death, there are 21 members of the Guidance Bureau; five members are in jail, and the 16 remaining members fulfill the minimum requirement of 13 members. XXXXXXXXXXXX also notes that because of his age, Helal had become inactive in the Bureau, making replacing him less of an issue. XXXXXXXXXXXX added that Eryan, while popular, has not played an important "administrative" role within the MB that would allow him to "successfully maneuver" for a seat on the Bureau. ------------------- MB Arrests Continue -------------------
8.(C) Separately, reports of arrests of MB members have increased towards the end of Ramadan including 33 arrests in Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbia and Menoufia during the last two weeks of September. The highest profile arrest occurred on September 26. Former MP Dr. Gamal Heshmat was arrested along with 15 other MBs in Beheira. Following Heshmat's arrest MB Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib, told the media that there are now "no less than 250 members in jail." However, MB parliamentary bloc leader Saad Katatni confirmed to Al Shorouk newspaper (a private daily) that despite the recent "arrest campaign," the MB will participate in the upcoming elections.
9.(C)Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, remains in detention since his arrest on June 28. On September 28 the administrative court decided to postpone its ruling on his application for medical parole until December 8. The media reports that Fotouh's defense attorneys will submit a request to move up the hearing due to his "declining health." (Note: Two weeks after his arrest Fotouh was transferred to Kasr el Eini hospital where he remains. End Note.) Scobey