Egypt sentences Muslim Brothers, journalists harassed



 
More than thirty people including several media workers were arrested and many claim to have been assaulted by Egypt's security forces outside a Cairo military tribunal where high-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced on Tuesday.
 
By ALEXANDRA SANDELS
 
Egypt sentences Muslim Brothers, journalists harassed.
Khaled Hamza, editor in chief of the Muslim Brotherhood's English-language website, was one of fifteen MB members who were acquitted on Tuesday. © Ikhwanweb.com

BEIRUT/CAIRO, April 15, 2008 (MENASSAT) – It took several hours for Khadiga Hassan Malak, the daughter of detainee Hassan Malek, to reach Haikstepp military base on Tuesday morning to attend the last session in her father's trial. Egyptian security had blocked all roads leading to the court ahead of time to prevent  crowds from gathering at the scene.

"All the highways and the roads around the court were closed off by security. There was a massive amount of police and security present. No family members or even lawyers were allowed to enter the courtroom," Hassan Malek told MENASSAT over the phone.

Malek's father is one of forty leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have been on trial since April 2006 on charges of belonging to a banned group and possessing anti-government literature. The case has been dismissed by several ordinary criminal courts. In February 2007, President Hosni Mubarak ordered the members to be tried before a military tribunal.

On Tuesday, Malek, along with the group's third ranking leader Khayrat al-Shater were sentenced to seven years in prison in a trial that rights groups have called "a subversion of justice." In all, twenty-five MB members were convicted and sentenced for up to ten years in prison while fifteen others were acquitted.

"The sentences handed down against 25 members of the Muslim Brotherhood today are a subversion of justice in Egypt. Today's sentences leave no doubt that the Egyptian authorities are bent on continuing their relentless campaign to undermine at all levels the main opposition group in the country," said a spokesman from Amnesty International in London.

The Brotherhood's number two Mohamed Habib called the outcome of the trial "unjust."

"These are political verdicts... which reflect the regime's extreme violence towards the Muslim Brotherhood," he told AFP.

Journalists beaten, arrested

Upon arriving at the base, Khadiga Hassan Malek said she was greeted by security and police officers who hit her and arrested her two brothers as they tried to approach the court.

"They were beating people openly on the street to prevent them from getting close to the building. They tried to take me to a security facility," Hassan Malek said. 

Journalists and observers from human rights groups were also treated roughly at Tuesday's trial. Observers were as usual refused entry to the court room and three reporters, including a BBC correspondent, and a Spanish photographer working for the EFE agency, were arrested. An AFP report later confirmed their release.

Abdel Monem Mahmoud, a blogger and journalist affiliated with the Brotherhood was also present at Tuesday's clashes. He told MENASSAT that some journalists were beaten and that the security forces confiscated the memory cards and camera equipment of several photographers.

Up to eight hundred members of the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood party have been arrested ahead of Egypt's municipal elections that were held earlier this month, leading rights groups to criticize the Egyptian authorities and the Islamists themselves to say that the regime is "fearing their rise to power."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which describes itself as a moderate Islamic group that seeks to bring Islamic law to Egypt through democratic means, has been outlawed since 1954.

The group's representatives run as independents in parliamentary elections.

Egypt has witnessed an intensified crackdown on activists and media workers during last week's uprisings in Cairo and Mahalla el-Kubra against rising commodity prices and low wages. Hundreds of people, including strikers, bloggers, as well as local and foreign journalists have been subjected to arrest or intimidation.

Egyptian activists are planning new mass demonstrations on May 4 to mark President Hosni Mubarak's 80th birthday.