CAIRO: Egyptian police are holding some 200 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who were arrested during a protest near a courthouse in the Nile Delta town of Zagazig, the group said Tuesday. They arrested about 200 people, Mohammed Habib, the deputy supreme guide of the banned but at times tolerated group, told AFP. Ninety-two of them have been referred to the prosecution, but we do not have any information about the charges, he said. Hundreds of the movement s supporters organized a demonstration outside the court building on Monday in support of Hassan Al-Hayawan, a prominent Brotherhood figure who was on trial. Hayawan, who was later acquitted, had been charged with illegal possession of weapons and belonging to an illegal organization. Police deployed in force around the court to prevent Brotherhood supporters from approaching the building. They beat and tear-gassed the protesters, injuring at least 10 people, the Islamist movement said. The Brotherhood initially said some 110 protesters were arrested and that most of them were later released. Nobody was released, Habib said. The Brotherhood fielded candidates as independents in the November-December 2005 parliamentary elections and won 20 percent of seats in the People s Assembly, becoming Egypt s largest opposition bloc. In recent weeks, hundreds of members of the group were detained after joining popular demonstrations in support of reformist judges calling for independence from the executive. Habib estimated that the number of those detained over the past three months alone was some 650, excluding the latest arrests.
Police doubled efforts to crack down on the Brotherhood in March, when the group began demonstrating against the extension of Egypt s controversial Emergency Law and in support of two reformist judges who blew the whistle on alleged electoral fraud. Last month, a judiciary panel reprimanded one judge and cleared the other.
Last week, the U.S. Congress voted only narrowly to continue funnelling aid money to Egypt. Last month, the U.S. State Department publicly criticized Egypt for its harsh crackdown on secular political activists, one of whom accused police of torture and sexual abuse. Agencies