AN Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood and confiscated its assets in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
The ruling opens the door for a wider crackdown on the vast network of the Brotherhood, which includes social organisations that have been key for building the group’s grassroots support and helping its election victories. The verdict banned the group itself – including the official association it registered under earlier this year – as well as “any institution branching out of it or … receiving financial support from it,” according to the court ruling, made public by Egypt’s state official news agency.
The judge at the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters also ordered the “confiscation of all the group’s money, assets, and buildings”. The verdict can be appealed.
The Brotherhood has been outlawed for most of its 85 years. But following the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, it was allowed to work openly, formed a political party and rose to power. In March, it registered as a recognised non-governmental organisation.
“This is totalitarian decision,” leading group member Ibrahim Moneir said. “You are losers and it [the Brotherhood] will remain with God’s help, not by the orders by the judiciary of el-Sissi,” he added, referring to military chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the overthrow of Mr Morsi on 3 July.
The court did not make public the grounds for its ruling. The verdict came in a suit raised by lawyers from the leftist Tagammu party. Several other courts are looking into similar suits.
The military removed Mr Morsi after mass protests by millions demanding he step down, accusing him of power abuse and allowing the Brotherhood and other Islamists to monopolise rule.
Since Mr Morsi’s ousting, security forces have arrested some 2,000 of the group’s members. Mr Morsi, held in secret military detention, faces trial on charges of inciting the killing of protesters during his year in office. Other senior figures in the Brotherhood are also on trial.
The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have continued protests demanding Mr Morsi’s reinstatement – but the rallies have grown weaker under the heavy crackdown. The group insists its protests are non-violent. However, dozens of churches and police stations came under attack by suspected supporters of Mr Morsi.
“This time, the group will return to darkness but much weaker than before after losing popular support,” said Abdullah el-Moghazi, a former lawmaker who sat on a consultative body that advised the military generals who ruled Egypt for more than a year after Mubarak’s fall and before Mr Morsi’s election.
Essam el-Islambouli, a legal expert, said the ruling would likely mean the disbanding of the Brotherhood’s political party, Freedom and Justice, banning its official mouthpiece, though the verdict did not specifically mention the party. Already the group’s television network, Misr 25, has been closed.