CAIRO: Egypt’s leading opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, accused the government Monday of detaining more than 1,250 supporters during ongoing legislative elections, while a press watchdog claimed police stopped film crews – including a U.S.-funded TV station – covering the polls.
The criticisms are the latest in a series of complaints against Egypt’s government for failing to conduct safe and fair elections since they began Nov. 20.
“Police are now chasing Brotherhood members in the streets, if they don’t find them at home, the Islamist group said in a statement.
“The reason for that, unfortunately, is that the Brotherhood has achieved a remarkable support among the people and has progressed in the elections in a way that threatens the political strategy of the ruling National Democratic Party.
The Brotherhood has done surprisingly well in the threestage elections, which end Wednesday with runoff elections in 127 seats in nine provinces. The Islamist movement has won 76 seats – around five times as many as it held in the outgoing assembly and far more than any other opposition party.
President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party and allied independents have won 222 of the legislature’s 444 elected seats.
The Brotherhood’s success has led to increased state intervention. In last Thursday’s voting, police blockaded some polling stations where opposition candidates were favored to win. One person was killed when police opened fire on a crowd of voters pushing to enter a polling station in the Nile Delta province of Kafr El- Sheikh.
Paris-based press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, claimed police stopped three TV crews, including the U.S.-funded Al-Hurra station, from filming on Thursday at some polling stations. It also claimed police attacked and abused the crews.
Last Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders complained police carried out “many attacks, threats and other abuses against journalists in several provinces during the first and second rounds of elections held Nov. 20 and 26.
The group demanded Egyptian authorities to end the harassment and named 18 journalists working for local and international media who were either briefly detained, beaten, denied entry to polling stations or had their cameras and phones confiscated.
In its statement Monday, the Brotherhood said police had arrested 1,286 of its members and supporters during the past three weeks.
Police would not comment Monday on the number of the detainees,but last week the police acknowledged arresting about 500 Brotherhood supporters.
The Brotherhood, banned since 1954 but tolerated with restrictions, warned that it was “unable to predict a safe future for Egypt under the violations that took place during the past stages of the legislative elections. As the Brotherhood cannot field candidates in elections, its members stand as “independents, but their allegiance is known to voters.
The group calls for implementing Islamic law, but it has long been vague about what this means. It campaigns for headscarves for women and against immodest dress, for example, but it insists it stands for a more moderate version of Islam than that followed in Saudi Arabia. -AP