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Egypt Continues Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood as Election Approaches

Egyptian authorities have arrested at least 78 more members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the run up to next week's elections for the upper house of parliament.

Egypt's crackdown on the opposition group has escalated in recent days with arrests of members across the nation, including at least one candidate for parliament's upper house, the Shura Council.

Egypt is believed to have detained several hundred members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of them are held without being charged.

International rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the Egyptian government to stop trying civilians in military courts. The groups say observers were refused access to this week's trial of 33 Brotherhood members.

Although officially banned since 1954, the Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition party.

The group's members, by running as independents, won nearly 20 percent of the seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament in 2005.

In a move aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood, the government pushed through a constitutional reform package in March that gave the government sweeping security powers and banned political activity based on religion.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on Egypt to lift its long-standing ban on the organization and to stop arresting people for membership in the Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood says it wants to transform Egypt into an Islamic state through democratic reforms.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.