CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptian security arrested scores of members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday, but hours later the group demonstrated against the government.
The crackdown and protests came a month after President Hosni Mubarak proposed a constitutional amendment to open presidential elections this year to more than one candidate. The move revived Egypt’s stagnant politics, setting off debate on the country’s future and leading to pro-reform activists demanding change.
A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Mohammed Osama, initially put the number of arrests at 48, saying most members were taken into custody during early raids in at least five different provinces.
An Interior Ministry statement later said another about 50 Brotherhood members were detained during street protests after the group’s leaders ignored “warnings not to go out in rallies.”
Among them were top Brotherhood official and prominent physician, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and five other group leaders. The six were later released.
The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s oldest and largest Islamic political group and is believed to have tens of thousands of supporters in the country. The group was established in 1928 and outlawed in 1954 after the government accused it of advocating the violent overthrow of Egypt’s secular government.
Since the 1970s, the Muslim Brotherhood has pledged to use only peaceful democratic means to establish an Islamic state.
Running as independents, the group and its supporters won 17 seats in the 2000 elections, making the Brotherhood the largest opposition bloc in the 454-seat legislature.
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