CAIRO – An Egyptian court Monday ordered the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood and the confiscation of its assets, opening the door for authorities to dramatically accelerate a crackdown on the extensive network of schools, hospitals, charities and other social institutions that was the foundation of the groups political power.
Security forces have already been moving against the Brotherhoods social networks, raiding schools and hospitals run by the group since the militarys July 3 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The sweep points to the ambitions of Egypts new leaders to go beyond the arrests of top Brotherhood figures to strike a long-term, even mortal, blow to the group by hitting the pillars of its grassroots organization. Doing so could cripple the groups political prospects far into the future.
The plan is to drain the sources of funding, break the joints of the group, and the dismantle podiums from which they deliver their message, said one senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss security agencies intentions.
Blurring its political and religious nature, the Brotherhood vaulted to election dominance in large part because of its multiple business interests that provide funding, as well as schools, mosques and powerful social institutions providing cheap medical care and services to millions of impoverished Egyptians.
As a result, after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood swept parliament elections and lifted Morsi into office as the countrys first freely elected leader.
Outlawed for most of 85-year existence – with successive regimes alternating between repression and tolerance – the Brotherhood built its networks largely underground. That made it difficult for authorities to track, since many institutions were registered under individuals names.
After Mubaraks ouster, the group emerged to work openly, opening a formal headquarters and forming a political party.
The courts explanation gave few specific legal grounds, beyond saying the group used Islam as a cover while it violated citizens rights. It gave a broad political denunciation, saying that during Morsis year in office, Egyptians found only repression and arrogance.
The ruling means any member risks arrest, a return to Mubaraks days when the typical charge for arresting Brothers was belonging to a banned group.
Already about 2,000 senior and mid-ranking Brotherhood figures have been arrested. Morsi, the Brotherhoods top leader Mohammed Badie and two of Badies deputies face trials on charges of inciting deadly violence. Officials and sympathetic media accuse the group of fomenting violence in retaliation for the coup.