An Egyptian court on Monday banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
The Brotherhood was outlawed for most of its 85 years of existence. But after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, it was allowed to work openly and formed a political party, which and rose to power in elections.
The ruling, which can be appealed, opens door for authorities to track down the group’s elaborate network of social services, dealing a deadly blow to its pillars of grassroots support.
Since Morsi’s fall in July, the Egyptian military has moved with purpose to weaken the Brotherhood. Last week, English-language spokesman Gehad el-Haddad was arrested with other senior members of the group and charged with inciting violence.
Also last week, a Cairo court upheld an earlier ruling to freeze the assets of several of the group’s leaders, including its spiritual leader Mohammad Badie and some of his deputies, including strongman Khairat el-Shater.
According to security officials, hundreds of people have been arrested over the past month.
In August, the military arrested the head of the Brotherhood, Mohammed el-Beltagy, as well as Badie.
More than 1,000 people have died in political violence since June 30 when millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand that Morsi step down. Since the July 3 coup that finally removed him, Morsi has been detained at an undisclosed location.
Security officials say hundreds of Brotherhood members have been arrested over the past month and estimate more than 2,000 are being held pending prosecution.
Since Morsi’s ouster, violence against security and government buildings in Cairo, the country’s south and the restive northern Sinai region has spiked. Authorities blame it on the Brotherhood and Morsi’s supporters, saying they are seeking to destabilize the new government. The Brotherhood denies the charges.