By Laura King Los Angeles Times
CAIRO – Demonstrating determination to quash the Muslim Brotherhood rather than seek to draw the Islamist group back into the political fold, Egyptian authorities on Tuesday arrested a prominent spokesman for the organization and renewed a freeze on the financial assets of senior leaders.
The latest steps by the interim government, reported by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, appeared to be an effort to capitalize on the strong anti-Brotherhood sentiment that cuts across much of the country’s political spectrum and has buoyed the interim government.
Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, viewed as the key architect of the July 3 coup against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and a subsequent bloody crackdown on Morsi’s followers, is being publicly lionized and urged by fervent supporters to run for president.
After more than 2 1/2 years of turmoil spawned by the revolution that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the authoritarian bent of the current administration is doing little to dampen popular acclaim for el-Sissi.
Meanwhile, most of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership is imprisoned, as are hundreds of rank-and-file followers. Human rights groups have sharply criticized conditions under which the detainees are being held, and say many prisoners have been denied basic rights. The use of military trials has also risen dramatically.
In a steady drumbeat of pressure against the Brotherhood, its main English-language spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, was arrested Tuesday in Cairo and charged with incitement, MENA said.
El-Haddad, whose linguistic ability and regular presence on Twitter helped him present a moderate face of the Brotherhood to the world press, was a highly visible figure, though his degree of influence within the organization was harder to gauge.
Augmenting the squeeze on the Brotherhood, a court ruled Tuesday that financial assets of senior leaders would remain frozen. The Cairo Criminal Court upheld a previous order to “temporarily” freeze the assets of several of the organization’s top officials, including spiritual leader Mohammed Badie and his deputies, the state news agency said.
Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, has been held by the military in an undisclosed location since the army drove him from power after a deeply unpopular one-year rule. He is facing an array of legal accusations, including some murder-related charges stemming from the deaths of protesters.