Muslim Brotherhood supporters chant pro-Mursi slogans in front of the Brotherhood's main headquarters in March, the group logo dominates the background. (Photo: Reuters)
An anticipated step against Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood materialises as the government officially brands the Islamist group as 'terrorist'
December 25, 2013
Egypt's interim government officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood, from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails, a terrorist group.
In a press statement released on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa said the cabinet decided the Brotherhood is a terrorist group, making it subject to Article 86 of the Egyptian penal code, which defines terrorism and the penalties for engaging in it.
Eissa mentioned that the deadly bombing in the Delta city of Mansoura as well as attacks on churches and other violent incidents attributed to members of the group led to the decision.
Prosecutors are still investigating the Mansoura bombing that left 16 dead, which happened Tuesday. It was claimed by the Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. It is not yet known if the group has any link to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Some of Egypt's political forces blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the deadly attack on the Daqahliya security directorate in the city of Mansoura.
The liberal Free Egyptians Party condemned the Mansoura "terrorist crime," accusing the Brotherhood of standing behind the attack.
"No truce and no complacency with the Brotherhood terrorist group, in the country and beyond," the party said in a statement published on its official website.
A spokesman of Sabbahi's Popular Current group, Heba Yassin, also directly accused the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack saying "your brutal terrorism targeting the nation and its institutions will not restore your power; and the Egyptian people, whose blood you’ve made legitimate to spill, will not submit to you."
The Liberal Constitution Party, founded by former vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei, also accused the Brotherhood of being responsible for the attack.
"While no finger of blame has yet been pointed to any specific terror group, the party calls on the Muslim Brotherhood to face its responsibilities and acknowledge its errors which have led to increased tension and confrontation with security forces," the party said in a statement.
Most Egyptian private and public media outlets accused the Brotherhood of orchestating Mansoura attacks.
Several leading Brotherhood members face charges of inciting violence and joining a terrorist organisation, despite that the group was not officially branded a terrorist group until Wednesday.
Brotherhood members and supporters were rounded up after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the army following mass protests calling for his overthrow in July.
Two main Brotherhood-led sit-ins expressing support for Morsi were dispersed by force in August. Since then, Egypt has been hit by a wave of militant attacks on policemen and military personnel.
The Brotherhood repeatedly denied any links to militant attacks and specifically condemned the Mansoura bombing saying they have been and always will be peaceful in their quest to reverse the "coup d'état."
Decision may be appealed
Experts say the government decision may face serious legal challenges.
"The prime minister has no right to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group as no terrorism law has been issued to give him the power to do so. Even Article 86 of the Penal Code does not give him the right to announce the Brotherhood as terrorist," said Amr El-Shalakany, professor of law at the American University in Cairo, adding that it would be to the judiciary to decide the matter.
El-Shalakany added that the decision of the prime minister could be overturned on appeal at the administrative court easily.
Human rights lawyer Malek Adly concurs. "It is a problem. This is an administrative decision and not a legislative one, as only the interim president has a legislative right to issue decisions and law, not the cabinet," Adly told Ahram Online, adding that it was a political decision not a legal one.
"I highly doubt that those who took the decision thought about its legal background thoroughly," he added, saying, "It would have been better to wait for the court to issue a verdict to consider the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation."
"There is a hysteria in the street because of the failure of security to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and I personally believe that there are some parties in the government marketing to the idea that if we declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group all our problems in Egypt would be solved, which is untrue," said the leftist human rights lawyer Adly.
From a human rights perspective there is a huge concern, believes Adly.
"How can you identify members of the Muslim Brotherhood when there are no official lists of Muslim Brotherhood members. Its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), has a list of members but being a member in the FJP is not an official crime," he said.
"I can be arrested tomorrow and accused by the government of being a Muslim Brotherhood member or a terrorist according to this decision when I am a leftist and I will fail in proving that I am not a member in the Muslim Brotherhood," the human rights lawyers added, fearing that the decision will be used to silence any opposition voice against the government.
Regarding the status of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and whether they would be arrested now according to the new decision, former police general and security expert Fouad Allam told Ahram Online that identifying someone as terrorist did not give the right to the government to arrest him, as someone can be arrested only upon breaking the law.
Allam also believes that a decision like this needs international support, otherwise it would be useless.
"An internationally supported decision will help the government trace the funds and financing, as well to extradite terrorists. This is why this decision needed to have international support," he added.
Egypt's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that it would immediately contact Arab countries, encouraging them adopt the same stance according to the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism signed by Arab governments.