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Egypt Arrests 14 Members of Muslim Brotherhood

The Egyptian Interior Ministry says police have arrested 14 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in a town 70 kilometers north of Cairo. Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood say the arrests are part of an attempt by the government to disrupt the organizations' efforts in the upcoming Shura Council elections. Cache Seel reports for VOA from Cairo.

Egyptian authorities say 14 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group were arrested while holding a secret meeting at the home of a schoolteacher in the northern Sharqiya governorate. The Muslim Brotherhood says only 13 were arrested, and a statement posted on the group's website said the men were attending a course on making shampoo.

Although officially banned since 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition party. It won almost 20 percent of the lower house of parliament, known as the People's Assembly, by running candidates as independents.

Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Guide Mohamed Habib says the group will field 20 candidates in the June elections for the upper house of parliament known as the Shura Council.

"We do not have a single member in the Shura Council," he said. "This means that our experience with Shura Council elections is bitter, saddening, and sorrowful because it has always misrepresented the will of the voters by 100 percent."

Sunday is the registration deadline for candidates running in Shura Council elections, scheduled for June 11. Mohamed Habib says that 15 Muslim Brotherhood candidates have completed the registration process, while another five who have been blocked by the Interior Ministry are appealing to administrative courts.

Shura roughly translates into English as "consultative". The powers of the council are much more limited than the People's Assembly. Hala Mustafa is the editor of the Egyptian journal Democracy.

"I think the issue of succession is more important than the Shura in itself, but since this council will stay until the next term of the presidential election I think that is why the conflict is more severe and crucial in the moment," said Hala Mustafa.

Mustafa says critics claim President Mubarak is planning to have his son Gamal succeed him, and that the government is cracking down on groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood to silence opposition to the move.

"Of course, because the new law and article 76 of the constitution that deals with presidential elections require 230 signatures from all of the representative houses," said Mustafa. "Of course the People's assembly and the Shura Council and also the local representative houses. That is why it is more important than any other council or any other election."

More than 300 members of the Muslim Brotherhood are held by the Egyptian government, many without being charged. Last week, the Supreme Administrative Court overturned a lower court's decision and is allowing the government to try 40 members of the group in a closed session before a military tribunal.