Egypt court bans Brotherhood
Islamists blast junta over dissolution ruling
CAIRO: An Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood from operating and ordered its assets seized, in the latest blow to the Islamist movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
The court on Monday also banned ‘‘any institution branching out from or belonging to the Brotherhood’’, the official Mena news agency reported, possibly restricting the movement’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
The ruling ratchets up an intensifying crackdown on the Brotherhood since the army’s July 3 overthrow of Mr Morsi.
Last month, security forces stormed two Cairo protest camps, sparking clashes in which hundreds of Islamist demonstrators were killed.
The operation drew criticism of the interim authorities from foreign governments and human rights groups.
The United States said on Monday it was seeking further details on the Egyptian court’s ruling.
Washington has long argued Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood should be part of the political process.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: ‘‘A transparent inclusive political process that preserves the rights of all Egyptians to participate and leads back to a civilian lead government is critical to the success of Egypt’s political and economic future.’’
A judicial source said the court ruled a government committee be created to manage the Brotherhood’s seized assets.
The Brotherhood slammed the ban, saying it was part of a sustained campaign against the movement.
‘‘The Muslim Brotherhood is part and parcel of Egyptian society. Corrupt and politically motivated judicial decisions cannot change that,’’ it said on Twitter.
The ‘‘junta is trying to silence anyone who opposes them. Dissolution verdict is politically motivated and part of a continuous crackdown’’, it continued.
Formed in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned for decades before a popular uprising overthrew its arch foe president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
It swept subsequent parliamentary elections and successfully fielded Mr Morsi in last year’s presidential election.
The new government accuses the Brotherhood of ‘‘terrorism’’, and police have arrested at least 2,000 Islamists.
In the past three years, the movement set up headquarters in Cairo and opened offices across the country.
All of these buildings are likely to be seized under the court order. If upheld, the ruling would also criminalise Brotherhood membership.
A government committee is to manage the confiscated assets until criminal courts rule on cases brought against jailed Brotherhood leaders.
The Muslim Brotherhood ‘‘used the pure religion of Islam as a cover for activities that contradict true Islam and violate the law’’, the court ruled.
The decision further reduces the already remote chances of reconciliation between the interim authorities and the influential movement, which still has a loyal grass-roots base.
‘‘A ban represents a blunt approach in which there is no space for the Brotherhood,’’ said Michael Hanna, an Egypt specialist with the New York-based Century Foundation think tank.
Senior Brotherhood members had said the movement was willing to concede its core demand for Mr Morsi’s reinstatement, but wanted guarantees its members and leaders would be allowed to operate freely.
But the interim government feels little incentive to make a deal with the Brotherhood that would alter its roadmap for a new constitution and then elections by mid-2014, analysts say.
The government says it is for the courts to decide whether to release the Brotherhood members currently in custody, who face charges including incitement to murder.