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Cablegate: Egypt: New Round of Mb Arrests

DE RUEHEG #0197/01 0421609
O 111609Z FEB 10

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 000197


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/11
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

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-- (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.




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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