CAIRO — An Egyptian court Monday ordered the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities and seizure of its assets in a major blow to an organization already facing a sweeping crackdown by the military-backed government.
The ruling, read out in the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters by Judge Mohamed El-Sayed, extends to the Brotherhood and any organizations it set up, including the association it registered under earlier this year. It said the Cabinet should form a committee to oversee funds belonging to the group.
The verdict comes as the Brotherhood faces its toughest crackdown in decades after President Mohamed Mursi, who was fielded for office by the group, was pushed from power by the military on July 3 after days of mass protests. The ruling renders the Brotherhood an illegal organization, relegating it to the status it held for much of its 80-year existence before Hosni Mubarak’s 2011 ouster opened the door for its rise to power, according to Gamal Eid, executive director of the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights.
“The ruling is political and will complicate matters on the political scene,” Eid said by phone. “While the state should be working to incorporate all political groups, it is now allowing the group to go back to its underground status.”
The ruling will be appealed, the state-run Ahram Gate reported, citing Ali Beshr, a senior member of the Brotherhood.
“How can someone question our legitimacy and existence when we’ve existed for 85 years? We will remain, as we are, no matter what,” the Brotherhood said in a post on its @Ikhwanweb Twitter account. The “Muslim Brotherhood is part and parcel of Egyptian society, corrupt and politically motivated judicial decisions cannot change that.”
Mahmoud Abdullah, the lawyer who filed the case against the Islamist organization, said in an interview in the court that the government has the right to immediately implement the verdict.
The court ruling banned the “activities of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt,” as well as those of affiliated institutions or entities funded or which receive “any other sort of support” from it.
The ruling will restrict its charitable and grassroots activities, which gained broad support under Mubarak and helped it prevail in the first parliamentary elections held after the 2011 uprising. It also heaps new pressure on the organization after hundreds of Mursi supporters were killed in clashes with security forces last month. The Brotherhood’s top leaders have been arrested and face charges including inciting violence and the killing of protesters.
The interim government is pushing ahead with plans to amend the now-suspended constitution and convene presidential and parliamentary elections by early next year.
A 50-member committee charged with amending the national charter could finish its work by next month, its spokesman said yesterday. The changes may include an overhaul of the entire constitution, which was speedily pushed through to a referendum last year by the Islamist-dominated committee that drafted it.
The charter, which secularists saw as curbing freedoms and infringing on the rights of minority Christians, was among the catalysts for the broad unrest that sparked mass protests against Mursi.
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