The Muslim Brotherhood: a history of arrests from 1948 to 2013
In 1948 they returned from the war in Palestine and were taken to detention camps in Mount Sinai, and today they have won five elections in the post-revolutionary period, including the presidency, only to be taken to the prison and detention centers yet again. This group is none other than the original branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Between the two dates mentioned above, the group has encountered numerous arrests, and at times, they have even been sentenced to death.
The following report reviews these historical dates in chronological order:
- The first case against the Muslim Brotherhood was in 1942 during the time of the monarchy. The group was accused of ‘attempting to overthrow the regime’. The case was against two members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Abdel-Salaam Fahmi (an engineer) and Gamal al-Din Fakieh (an employee). It lasted eight months before both men were found innocent and acquitted.
- In December 1948, Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmi Nuqrashi announced his decision to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood, which played a prominent role in the Palestine War prior to the peace agreement between the Arab countries and the Zionists. The Muslim Brotherhood was dismantled and their property was seized. Most of the group’s leadership was arrested with the exception of its founder, Hassan al-Banna.
- Twenty days after the group was dismantled, a student in the Muslim Brotherhood named Abdel-Maguid Hassan assassinated Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmi Nuqrashi. Nuqrashi’s successor, Prime Minister Ibrahim Abdul Hadi called for al-Banna’s assassination on February 12, 1949. Abdul Hadi then launched a campaign to arrest all members of the Muslim Brotherhood and they were sent to a detention centre in Mount Sinai. They were later joined by the Muslim Brotherhood brigades that had just returned from fighting in the Palestine War. According to the literature published by Muslim Brotherhood, this was a difficult time in the group’s history as many of the detainees were tortured.
- In 1949, dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members were tried in the following six cases: (1) the assassination of Judge Ahmed El-Khazindar, (2) the assassination of Nuqrashi Pasha, (3) the attempt to blow up the Court of Appeals, (4) the seizure of a jeep used to transfer papers and weapons among members of the group while resisting the British occupation, (5) the attempted assassination of Hamid Gouda, speaker of the house, and (6) the “Okar” case (in reference to the locations where the Muslim Brotherhood gathered).
- In January 1954, nearly a year and half after the start of the July 1952 revolution, in which officers of the Muslim Brotherhood participated, there appears to have been a dispute between the Revolutionary Command Council and the Brotherhood. A campaign was launched to arrests the leaders of the Brotherhood on the basis that they were in possession of weapons.
- In February 1954, the late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser dismissed Mohammad Naguib, the first President of Egypt, and called for the army to return to their barracks and hand authority over to the civilian government. This was followed by the “crisis of 1954” when members of the Revolutionary Command Council called for an end to democracy and a return to military rule. Around one half a million people took to the streets demanding the return of Naguib. Abdel-Nasser was forced to return authority to Naguib; however, he arrested five leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood including the famous judge, Abdul-Qader Oda.
- Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were released from prison in several rounds beginning in March 1954. However that same year the famous Manshiya Incident took place in the city of Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood was accused of attempting to assassinate Abdel-Nasser while he was giving a speech. This accusation still stirs a great deal of debate among researchers today.
- Following the Manshiya Incident, Abdel-Nasser dismissed President Naguib and placed him under house arrest in one of his old villas. Abdel-Nasser then launched a campaign of arrests that affected almost all the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and led to the execution of six members including Judge Abdul-Qader Oda, the author of the “Encyclopaedia of Criminal Legislation in Islam”.
- In 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood faced dozens of life imprisonment sentences against its members, among them the group’s seventh leader Mohamed Mahdi Akef. The group was also subject to various other sentences, as noted in the literature published by the Brotherhood at this time. According to the Brotherhood’s accounts, the group spent long months in military prisons and the famous fortress prison, known for its severe torture tactics.
- The subsequent ordeal of the Muslim Brotherhood occurred during the Abdel-Nasser era in 1965. It began with a series of confessions made by the journalist Mustafa Amin after he had been accused of collaborating with the United States. During the interrogation, Amin confessed that there was communication between the Brotherhood and Kamal al-Din Hussein, a former member of the Revolutionary Command Council. Hussein is believed to have resigned from all military duties due to his inclination towards the Brotherhood. Nasser believed that the group was attempting to revive their activities once again and consequently launched a campaign to arrest all remaining members of the Brotherhood that were not imprisoned. For the first time in history, female members of the Brotherhood were also arrested.
- During the crisis of 1965, three members of the Muslim Brotherhood were executed, including the Islamic thinker Sayyid Qutb, best known for his book “In the Shade of the Quran”. In addition to Qutb, Yousef Hawash and Abdel Fatah Abdo Ismail were also executed. Tens of members from the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to life in prison. Fifty-five women and wives of Brotherhood members were arrested, most notably the famous preacher Zeinab al-Ghazali, Hamida Qutb, and Fatimah Abdul Hadi, the wife of Yousef Hawash. Numerous women were arrested from the family of Hassan al-Hudaibi, the second man-in-charge of the Brotherhood. The wife of the current leader Sayyid Nazili was also arrested; however, none of the women were sentenced to any punishment except for Zeinab al-Ghazali and Hamida Qutb.
- In addition to the infamous military and fortress prisons, the two most famous prisons that held thousands of Brotherhood members were Abu Zabal prison, located just north of Cairo, and Leeman Tara prison, located south of Cairo. Twenty-two members were shot to death inside these prisons supposedly during an attempt to suppress a rebellion. In the literature published by the Brotherhood, there are accounts of the torture experienced by the group around this time.
- President Mohammad Anwar Sadat succeeded President Abdel-Nasser in 1970. He began releasing members of the Muslim Brotherhood from prisions until virtually all the prisons were free of Brotherhood members in 1974. He also announced the closure of detention centres and even provided the group with several freedoms. The period of friendliness began to crumble once Sadat began negotiations with Israel in 1977 and ended completely when he undertook what are known as the “preservation procedures” of 1981. Thousands of Brotherhood members were arrested and the group wrote that they underwent torture that led to the killing of the husband of Sayyid Qutb’s sister, Amina. The regime had announced at the time that he had died of suicide.
- The beginning of Mubarak’s rule in 1981 was similar to the Sadat era. The truce between the Mubarak regime and the Brotherhood ended with a series of military trials between 1995 and 2008. Disagreements were heightened when group leaders and active members were arrested during times of general, trade union, and student elections. Members of the group’s leadership were also arrested during the Brotherhood’s summer and holiday initiatives. This was done in order to maintain control of the group’s activity and supposedly to “limit the Brotherhood’s activity, not to undermine it.”
- In 1995, the Muslim Brotherhood underwent the first three military trials during Mubarak’s rule. In January of that year, forty-nine members were arrested for attempting to revive the banned group and thirty-five members were sentenced to three to five years in prision, including Essam Al-Arian. Fifteen members were acquitted.
- In November of 1995, three members were accused of the same accusation and two were sentenced to three to five years in prision, one was acquitted.
- In December thirty-three members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested. Twenty of them were sentenced to three to five years in prison and thirteen were acquitted.
- In 1996, the Egyptian government arrested thirteen members of the group in the fourth case against them. Among those members arrested were former leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef, and Abdul Ela Madi, who was the President of the Wasat party. Eight out of the thirteen accused were sentenced to three to five years in prision and five were released.
- In 2001, twenty-two university professors affiliated with the Brotherhood were arrested in the sixth case against the group under Mubarak. Fifteen of the twenty-two arrested were sentenced to prision and the other seven were acquitted.
- In 2008, the authorities arrested forty members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the seventh military trial against the group. Among those arrested was the second deputy to the Brotherhood’s leader, Khaled al-Shater. The arrests were carried out due to an athletic event organised by the students at Al-Azhar. The students were the children of the brotherhood’s leadership and they were seen dressed in military attire during the event. Twenty-five members, including Shater, were sentenced to three to ten years in prison and fifteen were acquitted.
- After the 25th January revolution, Egypt underwent a transitional period under the supervision of military leadership for around a year and a half. The transitional period ended when power was handed to the first democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi, who was also the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, a political group founded by the Muslim Brotherhood following the revolution. However, the Minister of Defence, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi succeeded in deposing President Morsi through a military coup on 3rd July 2013, merely a year after he was elected. This event ushered a new era of oppression against the group and its members. Supporters of President Morsi continue to protest in Cairo and other governates, but face continued killings and arrests, the most recent of which happened on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 when security forces arrested the group’s leader Mohammad Badie. Safwat Hijazi, a preacher, and Murad Ali, the media director for the Freedom and Justice party, were both arrested the following day. Many women involved in the post-coup events have also been arrested, and the leaders of the legitimacy movement have stated frequently that detainees are being subjected to forms of torture while the authorities deny this claim.
Source: As Sabeel Newspaper, 21 August 2013