December 8, 2013
Egyptian court bans Muslim Brotherhood
An Egyptian court has banned deposed President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its funds seized, a crippling strike in the campaign to crush the Islamist movement.
The case was brought by a lawyer from the leftist Tagammu party on the grounds of protecting Egyptians from violence.
It was not stated if he was acting at the instigation of the army-backed government, which has launched one of the fiercest crackdowns against the group in decades.
"The court bans the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation and its non-governmental organisation and all the activities that it participates in and any organisation derived from it," presiding Judge Mohammed al-Sayed said in a ruling.
He also ordered the government to seize the Brotherhood's funds and administer its frozen assets.
The ruling did not specifically mention the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.
But the state news agency quoted Freedom and Justice Party spokesman Hamza Zawbaa as saying the party rejected the ruling and would appeal.
"What is happening to the Brotherhood translates to a return of the police state after having removed it through the January 25 revolution," he said, describing the revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The movement has seen hundreds of its members killed and thousands arrested since the army overthrew Morsi in July. The ruling may force the Brotherhood to go underground, especially as public support for it has dropped.
The court's decision also raises the possibility that some Brotherhood members will lose faith in peaceful resistance and take up arms against the government.
"How the Brotherhood responds to this verdict depends on the individual decisions of rank-and-file members, because the broader structure has largely ceased to function," said Eric Trager, an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Mohamed Ali, a Brotherhood official, said: "The ruling will not prevent us from continuing our peaceful resistance to the coup".
The Brotherhood emerged from the shadows to win parliamentary and presidential elections after Mubarak was overthrown.
But many Egyptians became disillusioned with Morsi after he gave himself sweeping powers and mismanaged the economy, taking to the streets in protest and prompting the army move.
Following Morsi's overthrow, the Brotherhood organised rallies demanding his reinstatement, bringing on the fiercest campaign against it by security forces in decades.
The government accuses the Brotherhood of inciting violence and terrorism and has put forward its own plan for new elections. Egypt's state and private media now portray the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and an enemy of the state.